It’s hard to deny: we’re all (well, most of us) a bit overly attached to our phones. Can you remember the last time you went somewhere without yours? I can’t. On average, we each check our phones more than 85 times across the day (with some studies putting that number as high as 150 times across the day for us millennials).
Have you ever stopped to consider why you’re constantly checking your phone? Is it for work, to keep up with friends and family? Maybe it’s just boredom or the fear that you’re missing out on something. The time we spend on our phones can stop us from seeing the bigger picture of what’s going on in the world around us, as we focus our time and energy on the tiny screen that’s always on hand.
While our phones have the ability to help us connect with friends, family, and world news, opening up our point of view from what is immediately around us and giving us access to so much more information, they can also have their limitations. Next time you’re in a cafe or catching a train, have a look around you; how many people are staring down at their phones, rather than appreciating the moment?
Taking a break from our phones (whether that’s an hour away or a day of leaving it behind) can be a great step towards re-connecting and living in the moment.
What are the benefits of taking a phone break?
Improve your work/life balance
Being constantly connected can be stressful. We don’t just use our phones to connect with friends; many of us log in after-hours to check just one last work email, catch up on one more Slack conversation, or make just a couple of final tweaks to something we’ve been working on.
How we use our phones can encourage us to develop an unhealthy work/life balance, where we feel the constant need to be connected and available – something that isn’t healthy for us to expect of ourselves or our colleagues. The more comfortable we feel in taking short breaks away from our phones, the more aware we become when we check them. Setting simple but effective boundaries for your work-use of your phone (and other devices) outside of the office can be a positive first step to reducing time lost on your phone.
Have a more restful night
Studies have shown that our screen use before bed can contribute towards insomnia and restless nights. Numerous studies recommend we avoid bright screens for at least two to three hours before bed.
Moving your phone out of the bedroom and leaving it to charge overnight in another room can help stop the temptation to check Facebook just one more time before bed, or squeeze in another game of candy crush before you fall asleep. Sure, your phone makes a convenient alarm in the morning – but what’s more important: gaining a better night’s sleep by removing temptation from your room, or saving a fiver it would cost to pick up a cheap alarm clock from your local supermarket?
We’ve all felt a tad envious when seeing how well old friends or colleagues are doing when we log onto social media, but research suggests our unhappiness when using our phones could actually have more to it.
Some research has suggested phone addiction may correlate with emotional instability, whilst an overwhelming number of studies have linked social media usage of sites including Instagram and Facebook with low self-esteem. Even the social media giants themselves are looking to tackle our addiction to their sites, with the introduction of time-limiting and time-tracking tools.
Perhaps it’s time we start using our fave social sites in moderation. Uninstalling the apps from your phone can be a simple way to remove temptation whilst still having access to our favourite sites through our desktops.
Be more present
How much of our lives do we spend looking through our phone screens? How much do we really miss out on in our rush to record exactly what’s going on around us, or to get the perfect selfie? We’ve all done it; while on holiday with my other half, we spent more time trying to get the perfect shot than we did appreciating the natural beauty of what was around us. It wasn’t until our phones ran out of battery that we really started to take in the natural beauty around us.
When was the last time you went out to a meal with friends without someone snapping a quick pic for Instagram? If we’re reducing the milestones (big and small) around us to social media posts, are we really experiencing the moment at all?
Try and set yourself the challenge of doing just one thing without taking your phone with you; going for a coffee, having lunch with a friend, taking a walk in the park. No Instagram selfies, no checking-in via Facebook, no double-checking your steps via the app or browsing to see if the newest episode of your fave podcast is out. Just appreciate the moment with no techy distractions.
Improve your relationships
Texting at the dinner table, checking messages mid-conversation, or leaving your phone face-up during emails; we feel so compelled to check our phones, we don’t always realise we’re doing it.
The introduction of screen-tracking apps like the iOS update in 2018 now make it easier to see how much time we are spending on our phones, but are we changing our behaviour for the better? Or just feeling guilty as we continue to hmm in the right places in the conversation, flicking through our feeds ‘just in case’?
According to one study, nearly 70% of women feel that their partner’s smartphone, computer, or TV interferes with their relationship. 35% report partners pulling out their phone mid-conversation to check notifications, with 33% saying their significant other can’t make it through a meal without checking their phone. Most concerningly, one in four of us have actively texted someone else whilst having a face-to-face conversation with our partner.
Try setting aside some tech-free, quality time. Whether that’s setting a no-phones policy in meetings, leaving phones on charge over dinner, or banning tech for a couple of hours together before bedtime. Setting small but significant boundaries can make a big difference over time.
Increase your focus
If you find your phone is particularly distracting in the office, try suggesting a ban during meetings. No phones in pockets or on the desk – no exceptions. It sounds a little childish at first, but you may be surprised at how well it can work.
Our phones are always by our sides; even in silent mode, we can see the tell-tale flash as our screens pile up with new notifications, or the distinct buzz at it vibrates in silent mode. Out of sight, out of mind can work to our advantage. Once you get used to having set blocks of phone-free time, you can begin to feel less pressured to split your focus and allow yourself to get into the zone.