There’s a rumour going around that smart phones are the root of all evil and the reason why none of us can focus and get stuff done.

And yet, a lot of the people relying on this argument are also firm believers that…

Guns don’t kill people – people with guns do!

So.

That was quite the jump, huh?

And yet it makes sense, to my mind at least.

Blaming technology without forcing the human using the technology to accept some responsibility seems a little too easy for me. A bit too much like a cop out.

Here’s the deal with your smart phone, and it’s much like the deal with any other piece of technology: you can use it for good, or you can use it for evil.

You can use it spread wisdom, inspiration or at least funny cat memes all across the world.

Or you can use it to scam people out of money, find the most horrendous videos, and even hire a hit man.

Your choice.

Similarly, you can use it to become more productive than you could ever hope to be without it, or you can use it for hour upon hour of scrolling through updates posted by people you don’t even like.

If you’re ready to stop the madness and reclaim your time, here are some simple ways to get your smart phone working for you:

TURN OFF YOUR DAMN NOTIFICATIONS 

Did you know that two thirds of smart phone users never change their notification settings? This is mind-boggling to me. No wonder people are distracted – they’re allowing their days to be controlled by the pings, bells and whistles of dozens of apps.

The first step towards showing the phone who is in charge is to head into your settings and turn off all of the notifications you don’t need.

As an example, I only have notifications for text messages, WhatsApp messages and calls.

SILENCE IT

If you allow your notifications to make a noise, or vibrate, to get your attention, you’re still letting the phone control you.

Here’s the way the relationship should work: the phone serves you. You pick it up and look at it when you decide.

Now, there are exceptions, of course. Things you need to know about urgently.

I’ll hazard a guess that those kinds of contact will come via phone calls, and only from certain people.

That’s fine.

Give those people their own ring tone, so for those people and those people only, their calls will ring out while everything else is silenced.

For me, calls from my husband and my daughter’s school are allowed to ring out.

SET DOWN TIME 

Most of us are checking our phones before kissing our spouses good morning, and having a final check as the very last thing we do before we go to sleep – and we know this isn’t healthy.

Most smart phones will allow you to set down time periods where you receive no notifications (other than for specific apps you choose – for me, again, it’s WhatsApp messages and calls because that’s how something urgent would reach me) and the phone locks itself down.

I use this between 8pm-7am each day, and every day I have to force myself to wait until 7am to pick the thing up. My urge is to be on my phone much earlier that time, but why? Nothing in the world is so important that it needs my attention at 6am. The down time forces me to do other things with that little crack of time before my daughter wakes up – journalling, reading, or even going back to sleep for a few minutes.

ARRANGE YOUR APPS 

Another surprising thing us smart phone users don’t do is arrange our apps in a way that makes sense to us.

If you don’t want to spend your whole life on Instagram, don’t have it right there on the first page of your app screens.

SET APP LIMITS

Your smart phone will probably allow you to set daily time limits for specific apps or categories of apps.  If you’re a total email addict, this is the solution for you.

I have a social media limit of 45 minutes per day. That’s more than enough time to post and interact in my author groups.

LEAVE IT AT HOME

If you struggle to ever switch off from your phone, try leaving it at home.

I can hear your protests from here.

Yes, I know, how could anyone possibly survive without their smart phone? And yet, people used to.

Now, of course the world has changed and everyone expects to be able to reach you immediately.

But not all of them have earned the right to expect that.

If you have people who genuinely need to reach you, buy an old brick of a phone that doesn’t connect to the internet, and only give that number to the people who really need it.

[And if you’re devising a list of the people who need it and the fingers on one hand aren’t enough, you’ve counted too high. Ask yourself who could have a serious emergency and need to call on you within the few hours you’ll have left your main phone at home. Your spouse. Maybe your personal assistant, as long as they understand what is truly an emergency. Your elderly mother perhaps – although if she rings you and gets no answer, she’ll call your spouse who can call you… you see how the list is really best if it stays at one or two people?]

PLAN AHEAD

Often, we pick up our phones because we’ve developed the habit.

When we’re in a queue or waiting for an appointment, we check our phones.

Whenever we have dead time or need a distraction, we check our phones.

But often we know this isn’t the most pleasurable way we could spend that time. We just haven’t planned ahead and decided what else we could do.

If you want to do other things, plan for other things:

  • Take out your camera, and spend those pockets of time choosing something interesting to photograph
  • Always have your Kindle with you, and a book ready loaded to read
  • Make a phone call to an old friend instead of liking their latest Instagram post – intentional use of your smart phone to deepen a relationship
  • Load up Amazon and choose a thoughtful gift for a loved one, just because
  • Carry a small notebook and make a gratitude list
  • Check your diary to remind yourself of your goals for the week or month and assess how you’re doing in working towards them
  • Sit in nature for a few minutes, practice deep nasal breathing and allow your mind to slow down

The phone isn’t the enemy, it just needs you to take control and remember that you are in charge of the relationship.

Good luck!

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