The delicious smell of baked bread, with a wisp of oregano, filled the air while I waited for my dinner at Caffe Gondola, a local Italian restaurant.
The lighting was dimmed, and a sip of red wine had left a deep rich taste tangling on my tongue. To the side of me a few feet away were three mature teenagers, perhaps eighteen or nineteen, seated at a table.
No problem with that, but during the whole time they ate their meals, they were checking their phones. – I know this is sounding like a cliche (in stories about the distraction of mobile phones), but this is a true story and it is an issue.
For all the information we have on the damage the distraction mobile phones and social media is causing, it doesn’t appear to be having a big effect on peoples actions. – In fact the habits of distraction may be getting worse.
There are many articles, studies, books and videos on this topic, so I won’t go into detail in this post about the downside of modern mobile technology and how it’s making our minds less acute, our memories worse and damaging our sense of well being.
In this post, I will offer seven approaches to rid yourself of the bulk of distraction from your phone.
If you want to read further about digital addiction, there are two great articles here to get started.
A key point to bear in mind is that mobile phones are great tools and can benefit us. But it’s how we use them where we must be mindful and not let them dictate our behaviour and keep us addicted to reward loops that are of no benefit to our lives.
1. Turn off all your Mobile Phone Notifications
This alone will create space in your daily life and will go some way to preventing constant interruption from your phone. Develop a habit for when you check your messages and emails.
Both Android and Apple iOS allow this in the main settings and message notifications are easy to turn off.
However, you can set notifications on a granular level. So I still see silent notifications for text messages and individuals from whatsapp (not groups). This at least means if something important gets sent to me, I have the chance to see it. – I have turned off all other notifications and it’s wonderful :)
2. Do not have your phone next to your bed when you sleep
This is something everyone should do by habit and there is rarely a good reason for you to have your phone next to your bed.
The fact is you already have your mobile with you all day, and you don’t need to sleep next to it as well. – Give your self space from your mobile – remember you are not addicted to it and if you need to sleep next to it ask – then why is this?
There are books and other forms of activity you can do your bed without the need for an ever present mobile phone.
If you like your mobile there for security, then please get a landline. And if you use it to read e-books, then buy a kindle.
3. Stop Dual Screening
Your attention, focus and memory are all greatly diminished when you dual screen. (This along with the constant dipping in and out of your phone is one of the biggest issues with digital addiction and the potential lack of taking on any deep work or knowledge).
There are more and more studies describing how bad multitasking is for you and how humans are not designed for it, so by dual screening you are multitasking and not effectively using your brain.
How can you take in the tastes and smells of the meal you are eating, if you are checking your phone and looking towards ‘the little bell’ for new notifications.
Focus on one thing, and use your brain as it was meant to be. Also, whatever you may be focusing on is given your full attention and care. You will develop a better memory and your mind will be more acute.
4. Mute Notifications from groups on whatsapp
If you use groups on Whatsapp – either consider leaving them or mute them.
I have muted the groups I belong to and this has been great as I can see the messages only when I want to and when I check whatsapp.
5. Create and get into the habit of checking apps on your phone at set times
Do you need to check your personal emails every 10 minutes? Do you need to check the likes on your Instagram page every 5 minutes?
The answer is you don’t and you may not be aware of the reward and feedback loops that are being conditioned into your behaviour. As you continuously check to see new notifications, how your post, photo or comment is doing, likes and messages…etc…etc…
Check your personal emails twice a day (in the morning and evening) and check Instagram once day.
If this sounds hard, then consider why is that?
Do likewise with all the other social apps on your phone – check them once or twice. And some days don’t check them at all or consider removing them – this is something I go into in the next point.
6. Make it easy on yourself
In many ways, you do not have free will and your behaviour is dependent on a set of habits that you are not aware of.
You are sub-consciously reaching for your phone every few minutes or seconds and that action is not a conscious one, but one that has been conditioned into you.
So instead of relying on will power alone, also think about the world you have created around you.
- Don’t leave your phone within reach when you are focusing on something else.
- Set automatic usage limits in your phone — so it prevents you from overuse of apps and/or it reminds you not to use them at certain times. Android and iOS both have this feature. Also apps like https://www.flipdapp.co/ or https://findyourphonelifebalance.com/ can also help.
- Delete Phone Apps (I’ve removed both the twitter and facebook apps from my phone and although I still have my accounts, this has created a space for me to focus, without any need for will power, and I feel loads better for it!)
- Create sacred space for yourself. You deserve it and if your phone, laptop or mobile device is not in reach then you have time for yourself and to focus.
Use your phone as a tool to your advantage, not your disadvantage.
To finish on a personal note – I recently watched the movie Ladyhawke that stars Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer
I found moments of this movie poignant and although it’s not for everyone, I really enjoyed the story and the subtle humour.
It also created a sense of nostalgia in me and reminded me of some of the great movies that came out in the 1980s.
I watched it without looking at my mobile phone and focused on subtle nuances and details where ever I could.
This may sound a bit of a bizarre thing to say, but I am also making an effort to change how I use my mobile.
When I have dual-screened watching a movie in the past, my mind feels like swiss cheese by the end of it, and I have missed details. But at the end of this movie, my mind felt focused, calm and I could actually remember some details about what I had watched!
For kids growing up in today’s world, do they even have the same knowledge of movies, past and present, that kids did in the 80s, 90s, or before this?
I hope they do, and I don’t have any statistics on this, but it seems with the tremendous amount of distraction and visual media that is out there, then their knowledge on anything, not just movies, will be diminished.
In past things were more straightforward – at least in relation to entertainment and the crafts. After all film making is a craft and to get good at a craft, or to be knowledgeable in it, you need to focus on it.
Perhaps I’m being a little over the top, for without mobile phones there are still distractions. But when Ladyhawke was made in the 1980s no one was using mobile phones.
People would go to the cinema and focus on what was in front of them, or leave if it was that bad! ;) Either way there was a craft to be watched, focused on and discussed.
Focus on your life, you’ve only got one and it would be a huge shame to let it pass by without noticing.