A follow-up to last week’s posts about mindfulness and technology. I want to close the loop on what I’ve learned from tracking my phone use and share my plan going forward. As the title of the posts suggests, I’m not interested in eradicating the tech beast from my life. I love my phone and find it imminently useful. I simply want to shave away the excess that distracts and unsettles my peace of mind.
Last week, I started by unsubscribing from blogs and e-newsletters and removing the curated article suggestions in my Firefox “new tab” pages. I also set my phone to grayscale instead of color mode and downloaded the Moments app to monitor my phone and app usage.
On the subscriptions, I weeded them out like crazy – I removed at least 10-20 mailings the first couple of days – but they have been creeping back in. I am committed, though. Click, delete. Click, delete. Out they go! Truthfully, there a few I didn’t remove (“I can handle it!”), but in retrospect I should have. I just don’t want to lose track of them. Though I don’t really need them now, I may want to access them again in the future. My solution is this: I’ll make a list of my “almost-deletes” somewhere I can find it but won’t run across it regularly. That way if I think of a blog or newsletter I want to check on, I can go visit the site intentionally. Otherwise, it won’t be sitting in my Inbox queue demanding my attention.
But I’ll have to be wary – the temptations abound! Just yesterday I stopped myself from downloading an e-book. With my finger hovering over the “submit” button, I stopped to consider whether I wanted to be on yet another organization’s mailing list. This time, I said NO. Now, I’m not ready to say an absolute NO to all subscriptions – frankly, having a curated list of blogs I’m subscribed to is one way to start building my own site. So I believe I’ll decline all new subscriptions unless I’m planning to read and comment. I’ll do this with an eye toward developing relationships with other bloggers and intentionally building my network
Going to a grayscale was an interesting experience, but probably not necessary. The lack of color made it harder to find my apps, many of which are just tools – e.g., Google Maps, my banking app, my to do list, etc. It’s curious how useful those color cues are when I’m tapping around on that little screen. I don’t’ seem to have a problem with the red numbered alerts that perch on my social apps (Facebook, Messenger, Pinterest, Twitter) to nag me to look. My Twitter app has been tempting me with a little red 5 for the better part of a week now, and I haven’t felt particularly compelled to answer that siren’s call. So, no need for the grayscale. The color – which looks amazingly saturated after a few days of gray – can come back.
The things I found harder to resist are the Free Cell solitaire game and podcasts.
I do use Free Cell a lot, admittedly more than I’d like. I seem to be prone to picking it up during commercials while we are watching TV, or after the last show goes off and before I go to bed. Those after-the-show sessions have derailed me in the past. I was not avoiding bed so much as avoiding the bedtime chores. So, here’s my plan: I don’t get on the solitaire in the evenings. In fact, I’ll leave my phone in the next room. That way, I can still hear if I get a call or text but won’t be tempted to mindlessly pick it up. During the day, when I’m tempted to play, I will plan to click open my Kindle instead and enjoy a bit of reading. For those pesky bedtime chores, I’ll allow myself a podcast (more on that below). This will provide an incentive to get out of my chair, and also to not shirk the more boring tasks: the longer I take to do them, the more of the podcast I get to hear. This is especially good because many of the tasks, e.g., making a healthy lunch for the next day, flossing my teeth, etc., are healthy or set me up for success in other areas.
As for Podcasts, the three main “trouble” times are my morning and evening commute and at bedtime. I’ve just made the case for bedtime listening, so that’s decided. To create more mental space in my day, I have decided to drop one of the commute sessions. It may not seem like much since I have a relatively short commute (8 minutes in the car and another 7 walking from the parking lot to the building). It’s also hard for me to give up the listening time – I enjoy it so much. But I know I’ll appreciate the breathing space. Maybe not right away, but I expect it will happen. A recent post from Michelle DeRusha, a Lincoln blogger and columnist (I promise, I haven’t subscribed to her blog!!) suggests there are rewards. After a 20-minute silent ride of her own she was transformed, mentally and physically: “My mind was free of clanging thoughts. My pulse was slow and steady, my breathing even, my hands relaxed on the steering wheel.” I could use some of that.
Finally, at other times when my phone beckons, I’ll consider my mindful friend David’s 3-breath practice for dealing with siren call:
- First, take a breath and notice the phone is in my hand.
- Second, take a breath and ask, “What is my intention with respect to the phone?”
- Third, take a breath and remember to put the phone down after the task is done.
For ease of reference, here’s the plan, in distilled form. I’ll check back in a few weeks to let you know how it’s going.
Plan for Domesticating the Tech Beast
- Continue unsubscribing to unwanted blogs and e-newsletters.
- Add the “almost-deleted” blogs to a separate list so I can keep track of their location but be more intentional about checking them.
- Allow new subscriptions and downloads only if I will read and comment so I can build networks and develop relationships.
- Return to full color settings.
- No Free Cell solitaire at night. Phone stays in the next room. During the day, click Kindle instead of Free Cell.
- Weekday podcast listening happens only during morning commute and while doing bedtime chores. Evening commute is my mental downtime and a transition from work to home.