Last week I began the long process of completely redoing the way I use my iPhone. As someone who who grew up around these devices, it always seemed that each new update and feature was serving up better ways to be productive and stay on top of the important tasks in my life. However, I am beginning to realize that these features, developer intentions aside, do not actually make me more productive or allow me to stay more closely in contact with friends. Rather, they serve as attention grabbing mechanisms which prevent me from getting into a flow state, or only exist to make my phone seem more like a gifted toy from the future rather than a tool for getting things done.
As such, I've decided to take back control of my life from these devices, in order to prioritize single tasking. Single tasking is just what it sounds like, focusing on one task to accomplish a goal without getting distracted. This involved quite a radical change in the way I use my phone. I have turned off almost all banner notifications, so that nothing, not even text messages, will come in while I am using another app. That way I stay fully focused. If I go on Google Maps to look up directions, this will prevent me from falling down the rabbit hole of texts and other alerts which are constantly drawing my attention. I even leave do not disturb on so my phone never rings except for my favorited contacts. I do, however, allow notifications on the lock screen and in the notification center so I have easy access to check during the few times a day when I take allotted breaks to catch up on texts from friends and family.
Of course, this philosophy is certainly a significant change, especially if you are someone who suffers from FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Will I miss a few important texts? Probably. But the gains in mental resources from not feeling like there is always another text or email to check is huge.
While you can certainly go all in, you could also start in smaller ways. Turning off all notifications for apps that aren't essential to communication, like emails, social medias, and games is a huge start. Make sure to try turning off badges as well. These red numbers tend to induce stress and make some people feel like they are always behind, contributing to a lowered state of health as suggested (not 100% confirmed) by some research. This whole idea was inspired by an article about making your iPhone work for you, rather than against you.
Perhaps you are happy with how you currently use your phone. But it seems that more and more, people are feeling overwhelmed by the internet and social media and are struggling to find ways to trim down their digital diets, in order to find more space for peace and quiet, and to focus on the real world around us. VitaminWater is even offering someone $100,000 dollars if they can go an entire year without using a smartphone or tablet.
Wherever you stand on the spectrum, I wish you the best of luck as you consider what changes you might like to make in your digital life as we approach the New Year. Feel free to keep me posted on whatever struggles and progress you have!
Photo is of Andy Warhol’s Hand Holding Stop Watch