Technology makes my life easier. There is no denying it. I get my daily news snippets on my phone. Most of my communication is by email, text and WhatsApp. All my banking is undertaken online. I dabble in shares through an app. I listen to music on my phone. To-do-list, calendar and planner are all apps on the mobile. Contactless payments through the phone have become normal.
There are huge advantages to technology. The thought of finding somewhere to rent without the internet feels me with dread. Twenty years ago, when I was last searching for a place to rent, it consisted of visiting estate agents or checking the property sections in the local paper. Deposits were made by cheque and contracts signed through the post.
The development in technology is exciting and I am not resisting it. But I know I spend too much time looking at a screen. Even my mobile confirms it on the ‘screen time dashboard. It’s time to rebalance and undertake a bit of a digital detox. I do use my phone for both personal and work, so probably even more reason to digitally rebalance.
First, I reviewed every app on my phone. Checked when I last used the app, is it important and can I uninstall it? Immediately, I removed a bundle of apps. Then a second, more ruthless cull, reduced it further. Of those left, about a third I use daily or weekly, a third are related to travel or work, and the final third is default or operational apps.
Notifications are designed to get you to pick your phone up. To engage you with the app. If you’ve watched ‘The Social Dilemma’ you’ll understand the ‘user’ is the product, not the app. The more you use the app, the more profitable it becomes. Every notification makes you look at your phone.
When I started working from home due to the lockdown, I turned off all work notifications except meeting reminders. I’m sat at the work laptop for eight hours a day, so I don’t need work pinging or vibrating my phone outside my chosen working hours.
I have now turned off the notifications on every remaining app, except for a few important ones.
First hour of the day
I prefer early mornings. Probably driven by a succession of jobs where I’ve had to get up early. It’s a requirement when working as the manager of a newsagent or when I had several years with a daily commute of more than two hours.
Where’s this going? Stick with me, it’s relevant.
The discipline of being an early riser has never bothered me. My body and mind work better in the morning and I feel more energised. It’s not uncommon for me to complete a few hours work before eight. That’s my choice. I’m definitely a ‘morning person’ as I know I’m not as alert later in the day.
Over the last couple of years, one of the first things I do in the morning is to grab the phone. Check any notifications, messages or emails that have come in overnight. Of course, they are so important, they must be dealt with immediately, they just can’t wait. Can they?
I don’t want to start my mornings like that anymore. Therefore, my mobile stays out of the bedroom. Simple. No screen for the first hour of the day. No phone. No laptop. No television.
Early days, but one week completed. At least the first hour, of the last seven days, has been screen-free. One day, it was nearly two hours before I picked my phone up. Is it making a difference? Time will tell, but I have no urge to look for my phone in the morning. It takes about two months to form a habit, so I’ve a little way to go yet.
Preparation for Portugal
These are minor adjustments, but they feel good. Already the amount of time I spend on apps has reduced. Already, I can put the phone down and it can easily stay there for an hour or so. Occasionally, I think about Googling something. But it can wait. If it’s not important, it’s no big deal.
However, these small changes do have an element of hypocrisy. I am spending more time on the laptop. Writing, researching and planning. I believe a little productive digital activity is allowed and a bona fide reason.
Feliz Ano Novo.