Are you a prisoner of your cell phone?
Free yourself by asking 3 simple questions.
Scientists have reported that using mobile phones for long hours disrupts our sleep patterns and put our mental and physical health at risk. With advent of social media, there is an even greater risk of depression.
You may be wondering — So what?
There is no way I am gonna throw away my phone because some scientists says so. I will be depressed if I am deprived of my phone.
I feel what you feel. My phone is my baby and I can’t live without it. Right from that first moment when my little phone was delivered to me packed in a cute bubble wrap and it’s soft smooth screen came to light upon a gentle touch, I had fallen in love with it. In fact, I am writing this very article on my phone. Cutting it out of my life is not an option.
But I also know that phone addiction is a real thing. It captures my attention for 8–12 hours every day. This affects my brain activity and hampers my ability to concentrate and be happy.
So living like a prisoner of my cell phone was also not an option.
What did I do to free myself from this addiction?
I asked myself 3 simple questions which helped me change my perception about the phone.
I used my phone whenever I like, for as much time as I wanted. I used it even if I didn’t need it for any real purpose. It was hurting my health, my sleep, mental peace and my productivity, but I didn’t stop.
One day I realised that although I consider my phone a friend, I never really started treating it like one.
It was only when I started to think of my interaction with the phone like any other relationship I have — friend, family or relative , I realised I was in a bad relationship with my phone.
Our relationship had no contracts, no boundaries and no expectations — my expectations from the phone. But I couldn’t end this relationship because I was attached to it, perhaps even addicted.
Now in such a situation when you can’t end the relationship, it’s always better to improve how we engage in the relationship.
It’s better to be explicit about your expectations from that relationship and put restrictions on what’s allowed and what’s not.
So I changed the way I perceive my interactions with my phone and set right expectations from it and put boundaries on it wherever necessary.
#2 Am I getting what I expect from this relationship ?
I expect my phone to help me achieve my goals. Everything around me either supports or distracts me from achieving those goals.
Let me explain with an example.
Let’s say my goal is to wake up at 5 AM every day. Now I expect my phone to help me achieve this goal. So I set a daily alarm on the phone for 5AM.
This way my phone, as per my expectations, helps me in fulfilling my goal of waking up early.
Now let’s imagine another scenario.
You are about to sleep and are thinking about all the things you will do once you wake up tomorrow at 5AM. But your thought process was interrupted by a notification sound. You are tempted to check it, but you ignore it as you need to wake up early.
It’s a whats app group notification about some funny instagram reel your friend has shared and soon other people’s reactions starts to come in with with more beeping sounds.
You pick up the phone thinking you will check the notification and then go back to sleep. Looking at the laughing emojis from your friends, it seems the reel is really funny.
Now you are tempted to click on the link and check the reel for yourself what’s so funny! You click and soon end up spending the next 2–3 hours browsing funny videos. You couldn’t wake up early although your alarm went off, you snoozed it.
Now in this scenario, because I allowed my phone’s notifications to interrupt my sleep time, my phone distracts me from my goal of waking up early. In other words, I expect my phone to notify me about every whatsapp activity during my sleep time.
I expect my phone to interrupt my sleep time by giving higher priority to a whatsapp notification.
I don’t expect my phone to ensure I get a good sleep by keeping any such non urgent notifications with it for my review later when I wake up tomorrow.
And I think we can all agree there are no emergencies in a notification. We always get a call if it’s an emergency. If the person is not calling , then it’s not an emergency. If it’s a stinker email from the client, then it can wait until tomorrow for your response when you can check with respective person about it.
So now that we have seen that our phone can play a supportive or destructive role in our life. You can either choose to set right expectations from the phone and use it to achieve your daily goals or remain a prisoner of your own device which will capture your attention and distract from the path of progess.
So first you need to know what do you expect from your phone. And then evaluate the relationship on the basis of how supportive is it in helping you achieve your life goals.
If you don’t know then set the right expectations from your phone now. Some examples of setting right expectations :
I expect my phone:
- to always remind me about important meetings
- to remember everything important so my brain can be free of unnecessary information to focus only on the problem solving
- to record important article, quotes for later reference
- wake me up on time
- remind me when I am wasting my time on social media apps. Remind me after spending 1 hour
- remind me if I overspend in a month
- block all notifications at night time and ensure my sleep is not disturbed
- remember contacts/names of people I meet at trade shows, events etc.
- calm me with some peaceful music when i feel anxious
- send a motivation quote every day at 6AM, so my day starts with great inspiration
#3 How can I improve my relationship to fulfill my goals and expectations ?
Improve your productivity by using below features on your phone:
- Create a To Do list on wheels
- Set reminders for important tasks
- Schedule meetings/tasks on calendar
- Use timer to set deadlines for your tasks
- Set up only one wake up alarm
- Install health and fitness apps to keep track of your steps, diet,and overall health
- Use budget apps to control your daily expenses
- Google creative solutions to your personal and professional problems. No problem is unique these day and you will surprised at the amount of relevant material you can find on almost any topic on internet.
Restrict your interaction with the phone by setting clear boundaries:
- How much time do you spend on your phone? Reduce it to half.
- Spend an entire day without your phone to help reset your mind.
- Don’t check your phone more than once in an hour.
- Set clear boundaries like not using your phone 2–3 hours before sleep. I go one step further and don’t use it even 1–2 hours after I wake up. This phone-free time is very precious to me and does magic for my energy. Every night I sleep like a baby and wake up feeling refreshed.
- For the folks that do an awful amount of their office work or business on phone, should keep your phone away once the office hour is finished.
- Don’t carry around your phone at home. Keep it fixed at a place, unless you are going out.
- Remove the app that you spend most of your time. Just think if it is really needed? If it’s social media, you probably don’t need it. Or you can keep just 1 social media app of your choice and remove others. You can always install the app if and when you feel you need it. Don’t delete your work app, just think of alternative ways you can use to reduce the time spent on these apps.
By implementing these tips, using the phone has become a privilege for me and not just a piece of device that just keeps lying around my desk and attached to me wherever I go. We get sufficient break from each other.
Your phone is the best productivity tool if used correctly. It can be your best friend only if you ask.
The thing is it cannot decide for itself, it’s waiting for you to make the right decision. Just ask these 3 simple questions to yourself!
If you find these tricks helpful, press heart and follow me for more such tips. Let me know in comments what topics would you like me to write on. Cheers!