As far as being on social media goes, I consider myself pretty balanced. I work a lot online and over the years have developed ways to manage the distractions of notifications and the draw of new posts. For those playing at home, I use MUTE a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Haha. But ultimately it all works because I have a system that works, so I work with it.

But when it comes to my phone, I’m a bit of a nightmare.

Prone to flicking between apps mindlessly, I can pass hours doing nothing at all. Which can be a form of downtime or decompression for some, but it’s not for me. I ended up a bit twitchy and on edge for no other reason than social media comparison and burn out. Not ideal. My mind is often running at a million miles an hour. This sort of split and interrupted focus is a nightmare for me. And to be honest, it’s become a compulsion, and I’m not into it.

So, a few months ago, I decided to get mindful about how I use my phone for social media. I still check emails, text messages and calls the same way; the socials would be my focus. Primarily Facebook, Instagram and the Facebook Pages app with some emphasis on Twitter and YouTube. I would be excluding apps like UNUM and Buffer because I use them for post scheduling and planning for myself and client accounts. Ultimately, reducing the total hours using my phone was the primary goal.

The plan, Stan.

My plan to kick things off was to make sure my data usage tracker was on. With an iPhone, this is built-in, but I’m sure if your phone doesn’t have one included there would be apps for that. I wanted to know the time I was spending on the apps and how many pickups a day, which can be LOTS if you’re not paying attention. Have a second doing nothing, what do you do? I know what I do, I reach for my phone. Then I put it down, resume what I was doing slightly more distracted than before, and it happens all over again in another 5 minutes.

It was my goal to reduce these times/pickups a little each week. I knew this would help with overall hours of content consumed as well as breaking my concentration. The strategy was simple; I would set my phone aside, out of reach more often than not, and only pick it up when I had something to do. This alone saw my daily pick up average go from (don’t judge me) 97 pick up average to more like 60. Which, for a start, was decent enough, but there was room to go even lower. Don’t you think?

That’s what I thought!

So, my next step was to make my phone a little bit more unavailable so I could get on with what I was doing. If I were in the house, I’d leave it in the kitchen instead of taking it to the lounge where it stared at me from the coffee table. If I was in my office, it sat on my desk out of direct sight. I was working with the out of sight, out of mind theory. And it made a huge difference, and I started to notice that I wouldn’t get that ‘urge’ to pick up my phone as often. And when I did, I quickly realised that I had no reason to go out of my way to get it, to flick through apps and go back to what I was doing.

From here it became effortless to do things like leaving it at home, or in the car, when we went to family dinners or out for the night. Usually, Kel would still have his phone on him, so I knew if I were needed, I’d be able to be found. But, let’s face it, how often these days are we ACTUALLY needed that urgently by someone? I get urgent emails and messages all the time that could easily wait for the morning or business hours. It has become easier to untether myself from my phone, rather than retrain other people to respect my boundaries.

The takeaway habits

Mainly, that the world doesn’t end if you’re not checking on it every five minutes. There are times when I’ve come to a message or email later than I would have before. But never TOO late. I think too often we make excuses around being contactable that don’t apply anymore. I had to get real with myself; was I carrying my phone to be in contact with the world or as some kind of downtime buffer? We talk about the attention span of children, and I think we need to turn that spotlight back on ourselves.

When you add up the hours, the days and then compound them into weeks and months, we are wasting our lives here. That was a big takeaway for me, and I love social media. But scrolling through your phone a couple of times a day to admire the things being writing and created and shared is one thing. The way I was doing it, and I dare say some of you ARE doing it, is a waste.

Why are you flicking through the same apps when there is a world to explore and stuff to do?

Why do we do that? Is it a FOMO thing? I know for me it feels similar to not wanting to miss a day of school in case things change. As an adult, I don’t want it in my life. My social media, via my phone, isn’t something I want to be tethered to like a toddler on a leash. It’s here to give me access to the people I love and work and creators that inspire me. And even now, after being more aware of how I use my phone, it’s not always something that inspires or motivates me. I need to stop looking for those things on a screen and listen to myself more; to my life and nature and family more.