More Life, Less Screentime

Not too long ago, I posted how addicted I was to my smartphone. It seemed that no matter what steps I took to try and control it, the smartphone ended up controlling me. Then, a reader and good friend suggested Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I just finished listening to this.

It begins with nothing surprising, but something we often shove under the rug and try and forget about, which was a reminder of how tech companies design their products to be addictive. They want your eyeball time, because they get more money the more eyeball time they get. 

I don’t feel in control anymore, and so I downloaded Digital Minimalism into Audible (somewhat ironic, I know) in search of some advice and things to try. 

What Adds Value

A good first step is to think deeply about the technology that is not only adding value to your life, but doing so in an efficient and high quality way.  If we’re honest with ourselves, much of the value we gain from the plethora of apps and texts we receive is low quality.  We could be adding higher quality by going for a bike ride with the individual who is texting you and have a conversation instead.  

In thinking about this, there are a handful of apps that I do believe add value to my life. 

  • The Samsung Health App is what I use for everything health related. I track my miles (foot and bike), heart rate, weight, etc. from this. Most of my workouts are aerobic, requiring my heart rate to be below a certain level. The miles I track remind me of how close or far away I am from annual goals.
  • The JustinGuitar App has been my app of choice since August of 2018 to learn and practice guitar. I don’t need it every time I practice, but it is helpful when I’m ready for the next challenge. 
  • Duolingo is a great language learning app that has made it easy for me to learn Norwegian, Spanish, German, and French. Fifteen to thirty minutes of language learning each evening before bed has really improved my foreign language skills.
  • Audible has allowed me to read more books on the go. 
  • Evernote is my information keeper. Along with the calendar, these keep my life organized.

Rules

To help myself take control of technology and not the other way around, I want to develop some rules to live by. 

  1. Wear a watch and check the time with it. Checking the time with my phone often leads to getting sucked into a rabbit hole of very little value.
  2. Write down and assess the usage of your phone each week. What is the average number of times I unlock my phone each day? What apps seem to be getting used the most? 
  3. Remove social media apps from my device. Bookmark the specific groups that I need information from each week, and check that only when you need that information on your computer before leaving work. 
  4. Immediately after Duolingo each night, I must put the phone on the charger and turn it on clock mode and not use it again until the following day. I have missed out on hours and hours (accumulated) of reading because I let myself get trapped by insignificant, low quality dopamine hits. 
  5. Continue use of the Do Not Disturb function of the phone, and explore other options besides keeping it from ringing and dinging between 10 pm and 6 am. 
  6. Be mindful of what triggers me to go down rabbit holes, and consider each time ways of removing those triggers. 

What can you do to add higher quality value to your life?

4 thoughts on “More Life, Less Screentime

    1. Definitely at the beginning stages. It seems similar to something like AA in that if I don’t stick with it, I will easily fall off the bandwagon and down the rabbit hole again.

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  1. High quality post! A few months ago I did an experiment of totally deactivating my social media accounts all week and then just checking them (mostly the BJJ page) once a week for an hour on Saturday mornings. I did this for a few weeks and during that time I felt like I got better sleep was less anxious and got back way more time that I spent researching things that I actually like (jiu jitsu). I’ve since come back but I still waste way less time than I was on social media. I think I got the idea listening to the guy that wrote the book you mentioned on a podcast. Good stuff!

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    1. This is great! You probably noticed how much more meaningful time with your kids becomes and also how many “zombies” are out there. Stick with it and remain accountable to someone, so it won’t be easy to fall into the lure of the screen.

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