Are you in control of your phone or is your phone in control of you?
Suffering from phone distraction
I have a question which I’ve been asking myself a lot lately … how smart am I being with my phone? Am I in control of my phone, or is my phone in control of me? Because too often it seems like the latter …
Too often I pick up a what’s app message and then get sucked into another unrelated Facebook article or discussion thread, or competition, or sales ad for something else.
I literally can’t even tell you how much time I lose being sucked down those online rabbit holes!!
… And then suddenly ten or fifteen minutes have passed and I have been completely side-tracked from what I was doing …
I have lost my focus and veered off course.
When did this even happen?
When did this type of ‘phone distraction’ even start to become such a big ‘thing’?
Because there was a time in earlier adulthood, not too long ago, when I wasn’t constantly connected to overwhelming amounts of content all vying for my attention.
It was 1999 when I bought my first ever mobile phone, funded by some of my student loan money during my second year of University. It was a Nokia pay-as-you-talk flip phone, and the most interesting ‘distraction’ if offered at all was a glitchy, black and white ‘game’ called ‘snake’ …anyone else??
I can’t quite put my finger in when exactly it all changed, but it certainly wasn’t the first thing I reached for when I woke up, and the last thing I looked at before I went to sleep back then…
Incredibly, stats suggest that the average adult now checks their phone 33 times a day – which amounts to roughly 30 full days of a year!
Understanding the impact
And although some of the long-term effects of our mobile phone addiction as a society will only become clearer with more time, we already know that our generation is more distracted and stressed out than any before us.
We suffer with difficulties focusing and weaker memory span, we’re more connected yet more lonely, and we suffer from poorer mental health.
And our relationships are suffering too, because it’s hard to give anyone undivided attention when your phone alerts are always buzzing.
… But before we all judge ourselves too harshly, let’s remember that mobile phones and apps are actually designed to be addictive and to prolong our ‘dwelling’ time; because the more we scroll, the more we spend.
And okay, I know that not every single distraction in life is bad; in fact you can be distracted by lots of perfectly good and noble causes. But a consistent lack of focus is problematic over time as it will hold you back from getting to where you want to be.
Focus is critical for success
It’s a pretty well-tested truth that if you want to excel in any area of life – be it work, relationships, sports or learning – the ability to focus on a goal and to eliminate distraction is a huge factor for success.
The book of Proverbs puts it like this:
“Let your eyes look directly ahead.
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.”
(Proverbs 4: 25-26)
And I think that’s pretty sound advice, which is probably more relevant today than ever.
But how exactly do we learn to regain some balance, so that we’re using technology on our own terms , rather than just letting the technology use us instead?
10 ideas for using your phone smartly and regaining some balance in your life:
I’m certainly not writing this as any kind of expert who’s got this all sorted, but I’ve come up with a few ideas as a starting point:
- Get informed – Do you know how muchtime your phone is sucking away from you each day, or where most of your ‘empty’ dwelling time is spent? You might be surprised when you analyse it properly …
- Set yourself clear boundaries – How much time isreasonable for you to spend on your phone each day? Why not set an amount of timeas your limit, or even agree a regular time at night when you will disconnect? And if you also use your phone for work, even more reason to switch off…
- Unsubscribe – In the same way you might declutter awork space from time to time having a regular ‘content cull’ can be a really useful way of ensuring that you’re not continually receiving content into your email box that doesn’t enrich your life.
- Delete some apps – If you’re spending too much time on certain social media platforms or games or sites – why not consider deleting them off your phone? You don’t need to close your accounts entirely, just make thema bit less convenient to access.
- Streamline your social feeds – You can reduce your information overload just by reducing the number of accounts that you actually follow. Get a bit ruthless by asking yourself: is the information I receive through this feed interesting or important to me? And if not … go ahead and just delete it.
- Choose more intentionally – Remember that you get to decide how you fill your mind, and your mobile app choices can influence that decision. For example, if you want to get better atreading your bible this year, why not download a daily bible reading app to encourage you?
- Set some family rules – You might want to consider agreeing some clear rules around usage together as a family too, such as no phones at the meal table. The important thing here is to work out a plan which makes sense for everyone, agree it together and then hold each other accountable for sticking to it.
- Consider creating a phone ‘landing station’ – where all of your family phones all live. This could be a recharge point in the hallway for example, or just a location where you all agree to set down your phones whenever you enter communal spaces rather than having them next to you constantly buzzing.
- Try to avoid phones in the bedroom or right before you sleep – If bringing all that distraction into the most personal part of your home isn’t reason enough, then also consider the fact that it’s just not good sleep hygiene to be looking at a phone right before you go to sleep. Chances are that your brain will be able to switch off faster, you will fall asleep quicker, and also sleep more deeply if you set a curfew.
- Consider turning off connectivity – If you have older children/teens with their own smart phones or devices in their rooms, why not consider turning the internet connection off in the house at a certain time every night? As well as reducing the temptation to be online all night, you might just find that this helps improve real human connection and conversation for everyone in the household!
Tell me what you think …
But this is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you have any more suggestions, I’d love to hear them too…
So tell me, what ideas have you had and/or tried? I’d love to hear your thoughts…