I took an in-person meditation course recently and there was quite a bit of talk about how addicted we are to our phones. I definitely pick up my phone far too often during the day but after chatting with some of my fellow students I realised I’ve developed some pretty healthy phone habits. One woman told me she allows notifications from news apps so that when she wakes up the first thing she sees is the news — unless you’re an actual journalist or working in politics, why would you do that? I honestly couldn’t get my little head around it. In my late 20s I worked as a journalist at several national newspapers and was in the newsroom of one of the biggest here in the UK when the twin towers went down. I’ve had my fill of news to last me a lifetime and gave up reading newspapers and watching TV a few years back — the amount of emotional energy and empathing I gave to it all took away from my ability to create my own work. The news still filters down to me, of course — I’m online all day and don’t have my head in the sand, but this way I also don’t go searching for direct hits of worry, stress and disappointment. My ability to take care of my own emotional health and effectively do my work in this world has increased tenfold.
As someone who’s prone to depression I try to start (and live) my day as mindfully as I can. For what it’s worth, here’s how I manage my tech:
1. I’ve turned off ALL notifications from ALL non-essential apps. No news, no Facebook, no Instagram, no OKCupid, no nothing. The only notifications I see on my home screen are text messages from friends and family who have my actual phone number. Lately I also allow messages from Bumble (but they’re from men I’m chatting with so they’re welcome) and Uber. Everything else is OFF.
2. I have my phone on silent at all times. This means it makes no sound — no dings, pings or chimes. If someone calls me my phone vibrates. I often miss calls but I don’t mind that — I’m happy to call back at a better time. The only exception to this is when I’m with family and we might need to contact each other when we’re out of the house or if I’m meeting up with friends and I anticipate a “where are you?!” call. But during my regular working day the sound is off. Of course, this means other people’s bells and chimes drive me nuts — I’m not used to the sound so the constant dings just sound obnoxious to me, especially on a train journey ;-) #sensitivesunflower
3. In the same vein, my computer does not notify me of anything or make any noises. If I receive an email I will only know this when I open my email program. The only sounds I hear are from Spotify playlists. Oh, and I’m getting better about only checking email until 7pm. Being self-employed means my boundaries are pretty lax when it comes to my email availability, but I’m working on it.
4. I charge my phone in the kitchen. In my 14 months of living in this house it has never been taken into the bedroom (quite proud of that!). If I ever need to use an alarm I have a little clock I can use.
4. I switch my phone to airplane mode at 9pm every night (and I loved learning that Tim Ferriss aka Mr Productivity does this too). It all began when I got serious about my morning meditation practice. I use the Insight Timer app, which is obviously on my phone, and I soon realised how easy it was to fall into reading text messages (and let’s face it, hoping for Bumble replies) when I unlocked my phone to use the timer. Solution? Airplane mode. That way I’m not tempted to use my phone in the evening (better for the pre-sleep wind down) AND I don’t see any messages when I pick up my phone in the morning. It’s heaven, I tell you! I can meditate and do all the morning rituals I love, have breakfast and then turn off airplane mode when I’m ready to begin my day. I should add that I DO have a landline but only family members have that number.
So there you have it. Obviously this is just what works for me. I don’t have kids and I’ve no doubt my way of relating to my phone would be very different if I had schools and tweens and even bosses who might need to get hold of me urgently. But I still believe that no matter what you do and who’s dependent on you, nobody needs to get world news notifications on their phone. Save your attention for messages from the people you love. Start your day from that place. <3
Related reading: How to unhijack your mind from your phone