This month has been educational and eye-opening. I really have enjoyed taking a step back from my phone, and I’ve learned a lot about my digital habits.
I’ve written in previous posts about my March 2019 experiment. Inspired by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, I’ve spent this past month striving to maintain a digital minimalist diet. Now, since “digital minimalist diet” is probably not a helpful term for anyone who’s not familiar with Newport’s work, here are the basics of what “digital minimalist diet” meant for me during March 2019:
- I tried to use my phone less.
- I avoided all social media. (Exceptions did apply.)
- I tried to limit my screen time overall.
- I used the Screen Time feature on my iPhone to check in and see how often I was using my phone, how many times per day I picked it up, and which apps were consuming the most of my time.
- I transitioned to using my iPad and my laptop for a lot of online tasks.
I took a lot of notes throughout the month. The following are my lessons learned, in no particular order:
I pick up my phone a LOT. Seriously, I cannot believe how often I pick up my phone. I used the Screen Time Feature on my iPhone to track this, and the number was often over 100. OVER A HUNDRED TIMES A DAY! I’m sure that it was over 200 on many days as well. That seems insane!
When I think about it, though, it’s accurate. It accounts for every time I pick up my phone to do anything, and it all adds up. The number of pick ups definitely went down this month, especially once I started tracking it. I’d reach for my phone, and then decide – This can wait. It made me want to be more efficient with my pick ups, too – like, if I’m going to use the phone in ten minutes to start Google mapping somewhere, then I can wait until then to see if I have any text messages.
I made a couple of adjustments to help me pick up my phone less. First, I changed my phone to grayscale. I don’t know how much this helped; I’ve definitely been using my phone less, but I’m not sure how much grayscale would help if I wasn’t working so hard to limit my phone usage in general. And secondly, I changed my lock screen – and this adjustment was DEFINITELY helpful! Now, when I absent-mindedly pick up my phone, the screen has a visually appealing image that says WHAT DO YOU WANT TO PAY ATTENTION TO? in all caps. This is especially helpful to me when I pick up the phone absent-mindedly while I’m with the boys. I mean, what do I want to pay attention to? My kids, or my phone?
This kind of critical, mindful thinking about my phone usage is brand-new to me, and it’s definitely made a positive impact on my life. I’ve been learning to pause and say to myself, Do I really need to do this right now? Maybe I’m driving. Maybe in a few minutes I’ll be using the phone for something different and I should consolidate my screen time. I’ve also been able to zero in on many of the reasons WHY I reach for my phone so often; I’ll write about that more in a different post!
Even if all I do is check in on my screen time usage using the Screen Time function, it makes my overall numbers better. My phone keeps track of how many times I pick it up each day, as well as how many minutes I spend using the phone and how much time I spend using each individual app. Sometimes, over the course of the month, I would find myself reaching for my phone, and then I’d stop, simply because I didn’t want to add an additional “pick up” to my numbers. I also would take note if I had a lot of screen time for the day; if I was using the phone more than usual, it would encourage me to put the phone away for a while and try to focus on being present in my actual day. So really, just the tracking itself helped to decrease my overall time on my phone.
Using the iPad is helping to decrease my screen time. For March 2019, I decided that I could watch as much Amazon Prime as I wanted, no limits – except that I had to use the iPad for all my TV time. I didn’t really track this, but I think it decreased my TV time a lot! Just the simple inconvenience of having to reach for the iPad instead of the phone, which is usually in my pocket or my hand, helped me to watch TV less.
I tried to also use the iPad rather than my phone for Internet and apps like Goodreads. Again this helped me to decrease my screen time, just from the inconvenience of reaching for the iPad as opposed to the phone.
I like Facebook. I did allow for several exceptions to my “no social media” rule this month. I posted on Facebook on Edgar’s adoption day, Tamara’s birthday, and my dad’s birthday. (See my dad’s birthday post here!) I also looked on Facebook once to check on a message from a friend, and once to look up fun events happening in my area for the weekend. I’ll write more about this in a later post, but I feel like the way I used Facebook this month is the way I’d like to use it always.
I definitely could use some more solitude. The definition of solitude, according to Newport, is time when you’re not receiving any input from other minds. And I didn’t have a lot of solitude this month – I still am inclined to listen to a podcast, an audiobook, or a TV show in the car or while I’m doing the dishes. However, I definitely had more solitude than usual this month, and baby steps are better than standing still.
WHEW! So much to think about! I was thrilled with how much insight I gained this month. I’m going to keep this digital minimalist thing going, and I still have a few changes I want to make, adding back in apps that support my values and evaluating the whole social media thing. More posts to come.