Smartphones are wonderful tools. They help us to keep up on current events, stay connected with loved ones, support good causes, share important stories, and millions of people (including stay-at-home moms) have even started using them to make extra money.
I love what my phone is capable of. From the comfort of my couch, I am able to work, talk to friends, and even grocery shop. But with this powerful tool comes a serious potential danger—overuse.
I’ll admit, it seems a bit strange to be writing a post about breaking cell phone addictions when I have a business that is dependent on social media. But I believe strongly in finding balance in life, and our obsession with our phones is a big part of why many of us aren’t “well and balanced.”
Rather than being the masters over them, many of us have allowed our cellphones to become our masters. How many times have you been lost in scrolling on Facebook or Instagram, only to realize that half an hour has passed? Do you feel good about how you spent that time? Did you do it intentionally, or did you it mindlessly? I know that I’m not happy when I spend too much time on my phone, especially when I haven’t done it intentionally. It frustrates me because I feel like I’ve been irresponsible with my of my most precious commodities— time.
Think about this quote by Alan Lakein, “Time = Life. Therefore. waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” Truth bomb, right?
The Dangers of Overuse
While our cellphones have the ability to connect us, they also have the power to leave us feeling deeply disconnected. Look around a restaurant or coffee shop next time you’re there. How many people are there engaging in conversation with the people at their table, and how many are staring at screens instead?
One time I was at a restaurant waiting for a table with my family along with several other people. Each group sat in the foyer with one of those fun little buzzers that light up and vibrates when your table is ready. There was a family next to mine that included one little child and about six adults. The child held the buzzer. When their table was ready, I watched as the buzzer lit up and started vibrating in the toddler’s hands. He looked at it excitedly, but no one else seemed to notice. All of the adults in his company were staring at their phones. After a minute or so, I filled them in on what was happening, although I was curious to see how long it would be until someone finally looked up.
I’m not judging this family at all. I am guilty of this exact thing. I have allowed my cellphone to become my master— I have caught myself wasting mornings and scrolling afternoons away. And I have lost precious moments with my family due to distraction.
Sometimes I imagine that one day I get to Heaven and God shows me how I spent my life. I picture numbers that total up how much time I spent doing different activities. How many hours did I spend praying, reading, helping others, playing with my kids, talking to my husband? What if each activity was ranked in order of how much time I spent on it? Where would “staring at my phone” be on that list? Cue guilt and shame.
This image of Heaven may seem silly, but the truth it reveals to me is not: I spend way too much time on my phone.
My phone should be a small enhancement to my life. It should not be my life. So I decided that it’s time for a change.
Time for a Change
There are days that I wish we could all chuck our smartphones out our windows and go back to when we just talked on them every once in a while. Before you get worried, I’m not going to suggest that you give up your phone completely. They are useful, fun, and (as I mentioned before) can be used for much good. Plus, the reality is that smartphones are here to stay, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We can all break free from the addictive hold of our phones and get back to living. Here are some tips to help you (and me) break our cell phone addiction:
1. Designate “No Phone” Times
There are times when it simply isn’t appropriate to be messing around on your phone. These times call for your mental presence. Only you can decide when these “No Phone” times should be, but I recommend that you include all meal times and bedtime. There’s nothing that you need to see on social media that can’t wait until after dinner. You don’t need to be checking Google while you’re going through your kids’ bedtime routine. It can wait. Promise.
2. Download Helpful Apps
Believe it or not, there are several apps available that are dedicated to helping you be more balanced with your phone. The two that I have explored so far are Quality Time and Moments. Quality Time allows you to set your own limits on screen time before it will remind you to “Take a Break.” You get to decide how much time your phone is worthy of, and when you go over that limit, you’ll have a reminder. How nice is that? The Moments app even has a “coach” feature that helps you to “re-imagine your relationship with your phone, one day at a time.”
3. Turn Notifications OFF for Social Media
If your phone dings for every notification you get on Facebook or Instagram, you’re going to be checking your phone mindlessly all day. We want to become masters of our phones and not allow it to hold power over us, so that means we need to only be using it when we purposely are choosing to, not because it just buzzed, and we have to see what that’s happening. Go to your phone’s settings and turn off notifications for all your social media accounts. You’ll still be able to see them when you visit the sites, so there’s nothing to lose here.
4. Let Go of Needing to “Be Available at All Times”
Did my last suggestion about turning off notifications for social media worry you? Do you feel like you need to respond to people’s comments and messages right away? Do you worry if you honor your new “No Phone” time rules that you’ll upset friends or potential customers?
I know that feeling. I’ve been in the online business world for years now, and I can tell you honestly: There is no need to be available at all times. In fact, it’s harmful to believe that you need to be. You deserve days off, uninterrupted family time, and set work hours just as much as anyone else. If you don’t run a business online, but you’re worried about delays in responding to friends or relatives, simply let them in on what you’re doing. Plus, you can still accept phone calls whenever you want to, so you’ll never miss anything truly important.
5. Delete Your Social Media Apps
Oh no I didn’t! Hear me out though: I’m not suggesting that you give up Facebook or Instagram forever. But if you’re constantly clicking on those little icons on your phone, maybe it’s time to make them disappear for a while. You can delete your Facebook apps and still check it at your browser, you know. Of course, the app is more convenient, but that’s the point. Make it a little less convenient to access, and maybe you’ll start using it a little less. Once you’re out of the habit of clicking on the icon mindlessly, you can always re-install the app.
6. Set Alarms to Limit Your Use
Our goal is to be more mindful of how we use our phones. That means only spending time on it that we intentionally choose to spend. So, if you decide that you’re going to take some time to scroll through social media, but you don’t want to get lost in it, set an alarm. Maybe you’ll decide, “I’m going to sit and look at social media for 10 minutes and then I’m going to get the kids lunch.” So, before you scroll, set an alarm on your phone (or your oven, if you want to force yourself to get up) for 10 minutes later. When that alarm goes off, you’re done!
7. Take a Break
If you’re really struggling with limiting your cellphone use, it might be time to take a break. I suggest trying to go without looking at social media for 3 days. Keep your phone far enough away that you won’t reach for it without thinking. You can keep the ringer on and return text messages if you want to, but leave it to that. Take the extra time to do something that you feel like you never have enough time for, play with the kids, or just allow your mind to relax and be still for a while.
If you’ve been spending way too much time on your phone, it’s time to change. But don’t beat yourself up. As Mason Cooley said, “Regret for wasted time is more wasted time.” Instead of being mad at yourself, refocus that energy towards making the necessary changes. At the time of writing this, I have been using these tips for a few weeks, and they WORK. Join me in becoming a master over your phone and use these tips to help you break your cellphone addiction once and for all!
I would love to hear what works for you. Share in the comments below!
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