Let me check my phone.

Lately I am sick of my iPhone. It’s become a crutch to help make sure my mind is constantly occupied and to keep me constantly “doing something.” It seems that just waiting or sitting is socially awkward now, so at the first sign of nothing happening, out it comes. It’s time, once again, to apply some moderation and start using it in a more healthy way.

Here’s what I’ve been trying:

  • Disable almost all notifications. Especially email.
  • Set times of the day for checking the phone and stick to them. E.g. no social media except for between 5 and 5:30 pm and 9 to 9:30 pm (or whatever).
  • Keep a paper list of stuff to look up later. Who is the president of Azerbaijan? Why does the moon look so big tonight? Important questions, no doubt, but they can wait. Save them up, along with questions like “I wonder where Jane is, haven’t seen her in years?” and take care of the list all at once. Doodle some while you’ve got the pen out.
  • Find small, useful things to do on the phone. Sometimes, despite best intentions, the phone is going to come out. Rather than immediately going to a game, I like to have a book of short essays, that wasy I can turn on the phone, read something useful, then turn it back off. Here are a couple good books along these lines: This Will Make You Smarter – the title sounds a little pretentious but it’s really good. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Learning about what creative people do every day to keep their output high is strangely fascinating, even if you’re not an artist. Another more productive technique is to find a good Spaced Repetition (SRS) app and learn words in another language. There are tons of other useful, learning-oriented apps to help you, if you’re going to be distracting yourself, do it in a more meaningful way.

Admittedly, none of that is all that exciting, but there is some very interesting thought going on around this:

This very good podcast with Tim Ferriss (who is a lot of the inspiration for re-starting this blog) interviewing Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired, and all around fascinating and wise person who, among many other things, spends time with the Quakers and has some great insights there.

This Secular Buddhist podcast with Alex Soojung-Kim Pang on The Distraction Addiction and this one with Andrew Holecek on Meditation in the iGeneration are great, and very related to the above. Pang has also written a really nice series of articles on “Mindful iPhone.”

The book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and Alone Together by Sherry Turkle.

There’s a lot more to be said about this topic. Another day.


2 replies on “Let me check my phone.”

Hey Marcus, interesting article. I’m kind of on the other side of the fence personally. I think phones can be really useful to keep us on track in this busy world we live in. On the other hand, as you mentioned, they can also lead us astray. I use my mine for reading saved blog articles, tracking stuff I need to do, emails and twitter connection for my soon-to-be-launched blog, etc.


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