I was likely one of the first people in America to buy an iPhone. I waited in line for hours in front of the Apple Store at the Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, NC to buy one on release day. The first iPhone was surprisingly limited; it could not send MMS (picture texts), could not connect to 3G data, and could not run any apps other than those pre-installed on the system. At around $700 (if my memory is correct), it was a huge—and probably ridiculous—investment for a young seminary student.
I realized not long after its purchase that the device, despite its limitations, was changing how I lived and even how I thought. I would look at it as soon as there was any pause in my life—waiting in lines, sitting on buses, escaping from boring conversations (to my shame), etc. My interest in the phone grew with each new model; as the data speeds increased, as social media came into existence, and as the popularity of the app store grew, I found myself more and more addicted to my phone. Not to make things sound too dramatic, but eventually I realized that it had become the master in the relationship in many important ways.
I took several steps this summer to free myself from both my phone and social media. I want to be as productive as possible, but I found that frequent use of my phone hindered productivity. I want to be content in life, but I found that gazing into the social media pages of other people prevented that from happening. I know one person who became so disgusted with it all that he took all of the apps off of his phone—including his email app! I did not go that far, but I am glad I took the steps that I did. Below is what I would recommend to anyone who believes that they are spending too much unprofitable time on their smartphone.
First, name it for what it is. Take all of your social media apps and place them in a folder entitled Time Waste. Move that folder to a not very prominent location. I still look at social media on occasion, and I still believe it has some value, but for me much of it truly was becoming a waste of time. I no longer give it the attention I once did.
I further recommend establishing the goal of not looking at your phone between the hours of 8pm and 8am (activating Airplane Mode works well). Doing so helps you devote more time to reading, family, and basic work around the house. It saves you from the constant pinging of incoming emails and from becoming curious about what might be happening on Twitter or Facebook (I’ll take a good guess: it is probably some crazy political debate. I say that as someone who has unintentionally started a few).
Second, create a folder entitled Quick Reads. Place in it apps that will be profitable alternatives to social media. I use a RSS reader that I employ to follow theology blogs, an app entitled Pocket that saves essays and articles that I find online, and an older app by the name of Readtime that curates reading material based on how much time you have available. I also include an online magazine named Productive!; it was developed by the creator of Nozbe.
So, I still look at my phone while I am doing such things as waiting in a line or sitting on a bus (not during a conversation!), but I do not look at social media. I use my phone for good—reading and keeping up with developments in my field—and my time is not squandered.
What tactics do you use to maintain self-discipline in this area? Have you found yourself moving away from the tyranny of the telephone?
*Some of these ideas I originally found on this website: http://alifeofproductivity.com