I love my phone. I hate my phone. I love it and I hate it and it feels like I’m stuck to it 24 hours a day. My relationship with my phone is making me lazy, short of concentration, devoid of my own creativity plus – conversely – stoking that inherent desire in me to do everything and see everything to a level that makes it impossible to do anything or go anywhere. It’s sort of…paralytic.
As someone for whom social media is a large part of my working life, I find it hard to justify not using it out-of-hours, because it’s often when you’re using it for yourself that you get an idea for a cool project or campaign or you notice upcoming trends & patterns . Plus, I genuinely enjoy it. There are hundreds and thousands of interesting, beautiful, arresting, thoughtful things on the internet alongside the bad. Except, when you’re stuck to it for too long it turns your brain into a creative desert. The platforms themselves lose their lustre; one pretty picture is just like another and please tell my I’m not the only one who started getting sucked into the facebook-Twitter-Instagram-Facebook-Twitter-Gmail-Facebook-Pinterest cycle? Ugh. Even just reading that makes me feel dull.
So having read this article about a year with a ‘distraction-free’ iPhone, this one about best ways to stop procrastination, this one from Matt Andrews on his own ‘no consumption‘ experiment a couple of years ago, and listening to a ton of After the Jump episodes (check out ep. 83) while I run, I’ve decided it’s definitely time I took control of my own habits. I’m going to keep a diary, see how I get on from week to week, chart any changes in work output, creative output, life output. And that means putting. down. the phone.
An Update from Week 1:
First, the purge.
- all non-essential/unedifying/’infinity’ apps including: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Path, Steller, Pinterest, Tumblr, 2048, charity running apps I’ve had on there forever and never used, shopping apps, random game apps, random quiz apps, Reddit, etc etc
- Safari (‘disabled’, because I previously deleted the Facebook app and found myself looking at it in the browser anyway)
- Email accounts
- Productivity apps such as Focus Time, Coffitivity, Evernote
- Useful apps (bus timetables, Uber, WhatsApp)
- Music and exercise apps
- Two news apps – BBC, and Pocket so that I can finally catch-up with the articles I bookmark during the week
- Camera apps (though have streamlined and deleted the 5 or so editing apps that were languishing on my phone unused)
And, randomly, the Duolingo app…because if I’m ever really that bored, and I don’t have a book with me, then I’m better off practising some French and German than I am scrolling through endless Twitter angst.
I set out loose ‘rules’: personal social media during allowed during breaks and at home if using browser. Try to limit time in the evening and weekends. Okay to briefly re-install apps that you need to upload new content you’ve created yourself (e.g. Instagram/Stellar). Keep notebook close for personal notes, ideas, things I need to check up on etc. (I.e. try not to break work concentration to Google random thoughts – jot them down, sort them out later).
How it went: Coupled with a change in seating at work (i.e. no longer next to a door and constant flow of disrupting traffic) and an insanely busy week of deadlines, I’ve had a much better week of concentrating than most of August. Using FocusTime means I feel like I”m ”cheating” if I look at something not of the task in hand, and I’ve whizzed through a lot of things. Still find myself reaching for my phone for no reason, but now, instead of getting stuck into a cycle of social media apps, I put it straight back down because there’s nothing to look at. I”ve started using the app Happier with a locked-down profile to keep hold of those small, fleeting feel-good moments. A long week has left me too tired to start on personal projects at home, but for the first time in a long time I feel real ideas bubbling away that I’ve put to one side for later. Progress!!
Cons: I did however find my first issue – stupidly, deleting gmail from my phone meant my calendar reminders disappeared too and I found myself missing a night at the theatre (to see King Charles III) I’d been looking forward to for a long time, but in the midst of a hectic week, had slipped my mind and there was no pop-up to nudge me. GUTTED. Also realised I use the Pinterest app as a shopping list for my favourite recipes more than I knew, and by getting rid of Safari too, I couldn’t jot down a shopping list on the train home without reinstalling. Both lessons in organisation to be learnt from! But also means I’ll be reinstalling Gmail but blocking actual mail notifications for the rest of the time.
Are you up for trying a distraction-free month? Or do you have any favourite tips for productivity? I’d love to hear them…