5 tips for taking charge of your phone

I’ve shared a couple of posts in the last week about limiting my kids screen time:

30 Screen Free things to do with your kids this summer

 Little Life Hack: Schedule your kid’s screen time

In light of that, I thought it might be useful to re-post some things I wrote in 2017 about limiting my own screen time on my collaborative blog, The Three Thirty Project. My friend and I decided to do a tech sabbath, which, if you’re not familiar, is just a day without screens.

I think I’d heard the idea from a podcast and immediately wanted to try it.

I had some amusing observations, and useful tips (if I do say so myself) for preparing to take some time away from my phone, and just to get a bit more control over my relationship with technology in general that I think are still useful.

I have been trying to be more mindful and intentional about the way I use my phone (or the way it uses me). So here are a few things I’ve tried to manage the phone.

born-ready1. Deleted Social Media Apps from my phone.

I realized about 9 months ago that Facebook was just way too much temptation for me to have available for viewing at all times, so it’s been off the phone for awhile. But, that meant I started exploring the Twitter-verse. And WOW, there are some fascinating, funny and crazy stuff on that platform. So…it’s gone now, too.  There were a couple of other apps I tried that also tend to suck me in, they’re also gone.

2. Attempted to ‘get ahead’ on work I normally do on Sunday.

I like to think that I take my Sundays totally and completely off from work and reserve that day for my family. But…I own a small business, so there’s a part of me that really wants to be available if someone wants information, has a question or needs something on a Sunday. But…maybe it can wait.

3. Starting bringing awareness to when I want to visit social media

There are a couple of tools to help you stay focused when working on computers. Two that I like are called Block Site and Freedom. Block site is an app that will keep you from visiting certain sites during days/times that you specify. So, for example, if I try to visit Facebook, Twitter, certain new sites, etc. during my “working” hours, my browser will redirect me to a website that is raising funds for a cause that is offensive to me. It’s AMAZING how quickly that will make you realize that you’re typing in the URL for Faceboo… before you’ve even thought about it.

Freedom is an app you can use on your phone (or computer) which also blocks sites and apps that you choose during the days/times of your choosing.

I’ve found that I love/hate using these tools. On the one hand, it’s great to keep myself accountable. But, on the other hand, I’d like to think I could have self-control without the aid of an app. But…I think they’ve designed the apps to be that way, so I don’t blame myself.

UPDATE: In the latest update on my iPhone there are two really useful tools that I’ve started using. one is a tracker for how much you’re using your phone. The second is a feature where you can limit your usage of certain apps. For example, I’ve created a two hour limit for social media and games on my phone, so when I get to that limit, my phone won’t let me open the apps without letting me know I’ve reached my limit.

4. Recognize what I want from my technology

I do really appreciate the way that my phone connects me with my family and friends. I love listening to podcasts, seeing pictures of my friend’s babies, going on vacations vicariously through my friends, learning tricks to help me be a better parent, business owner, wife, homeowner, etc. But I don’t want to be so involved in those things that I miss my own life – my children, my home, my town, etc.

I also don’t want to fall into the trap of viewing my world through an iPhone camera lens, 140 character quips, and filters. Of course, our own beliefs, values and experience serve as a lens that change what we see in our world and in our lives…but at least it’s a 3D representation rather than a curated bunch of pixels. I want my kids to know how to make eye contact, to listen intently, to know what dirt between their toes feels like. I don’t want to make a false choice and say we should all get rid of all our technology, but I don’t want to use it just because it’s there. I think that my phone, my computer and my television are tools. They work very well as tools, but aren’t great masters. So, I’m hopeful, that Screen Free Sunday will be a kick-start on a journey to a more mindful relationship with the screens in my life.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I didn’t include this part in the original post about my phone, but here we go:

5. Turn off ALL notifications. 

One of the things I find is that if I pick up my phone, I stay on it for awhile. I get dozens and dozens of emails every day. I have a couple of group chats going with my sisters, with my family, with the PTO moms from my daughter’s school. I have 3 messenger apps.

If every time something happens on one of those apps, my phone beeps, I will be interrupted ALL. DAY. LONG.

That is not okay with me.

So, I turned off the notifications. I got rid of the red numbers. I got rid of the sounds. I got rid of the banner notifications. If something is happening on instagram, I have to log on to find out.

I can’t tell you what a difference this little change has made in my life. Now, the only times my phone makes noises are when I have given it permission too. It rings when someone on my contact list calls me. It beeps when one of my favorite people sends me a text message. And it plays music. That’s it.

It took a little bit of effort to go to through the settings of every app and turn off the notifications, but it was SO worth it.

I highly recommend it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some lessons I learned from my screen free day!


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