The other day I read a piece at The Art of Manliness called 5 Concrete Ways to Develop a Healthier Relationship With Your Phone (No Blocking or Deleting Apps Required!), and felt as if the article had been written just for me. How in the world did I allow this stupid smartphone to dominate so much of my time?
Oh yeah – because I let it dominate my time. From the article:
For many of us, our smartphones have come to feel like another appendage. We carry them wherever we go, fondle them during meals and conversations, and sleep with them next to our pillows. Wherever one is, so is the other.
However, unlike our typically unabashed appreciation for our physical limbs (arms and legs ftw!), our feelings about our smartphones tend to be quite a bit more mixed, if not downright negative. We bemoan the ever-present desire to check and toggle their screens and the way they fragment our thoughts, prevent us from doing any deep work, and make it difficult to focus on the friends and loved ones around us. This is likely especially true for those who are old enough to remember a time in which you went about your daily activities — to class, work, the gym, dinner — without this constant companion in tow; who are old enough to remember a state that didn’t feel deficient but wonderfully unencumbered and simple.
My business requires that I have a cellphone – customers need to contact me, and oftentimes they want quick responses to their requests or questions. It’s simply the nature of the beast – if I don’t take care of them in a timely manner, they’ll find someone else who will. But beyond that necessity, and keeping in contact with family and friends, I’ve allowed my phone to become an obstacle. It was in the way of doing more productive, enjoyable things, such as writing, reading, composing, conversing. I formed bad habits, so this article was serendipitous.
The five intentional habits AoM recommends are:
- Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning.
- Don’t take your phone in the car/on errands.
- Leave your phone in your pocket during meals/conversations.
- Keep your phone hidden away when you’re working/reading/watching television.
- Don’t keep your phone by your bed.
My goal for May is to incorporate these, with some modifications. I use my phone when I pray in the morning – I have prayer apps, as I’m sure a lot of you do. But that doesn’t mean I need to scroll mindlessly through Facebook to see what happened overnight. 90% of it is asshattery anyway.
As a sales rep, I have to take my phone with me in the car – it’s an absolute necessity. But for running weekend errands? I can leave it home.
The third habit is a no brainer, but I admit I don’t always do this. I often catch myself looking at my phone when I hear a notification ping!, and then sheepishly set it to silent. It should be on silent mode to begin with.
The fourth suggestion will be tough, because I tend to “multi-task” with phone in hand. I kid myself it isn’t a distraction, but in reality, I’m not being fully present when I’m holding the dumb thing. Put the dang thing down!
I’m incorporating the last one tonight. My phone is also my alarm clock, but is the convenience necessary? Turning off my phone alarm forces me to pick it up first thing – and while I’m not forced to open an app or scroll through Facebook, the temptation is there to give it more attention than it deserves.
So what’s the end goal? To be more intentional than to take the path of least resistance. To develop better habits and a healthier relationship with my phone. To be its master and not its slave. The amount of attention I’ve been giving my smartphone is stupid, and I’m much too intelligent for that.
p.s. The Art of Manliness is a great site encouraging men to balance their lives across all the disciplines: physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological. I like their unabashed promotion of masculinity without being macho, being traditional without being rigid. The creators – husband and wife team Brett and Kate McKay – challenge men to strive beyond mediocrity for the benefit not only of themselves, but for their families and society at large.