The inspiring news from this survey was that an even greater percentage of respondents (39%) check their email a total of only 1-3 times per day. I wonder which group is more productive? I wonder which group has more balance in their lives. I wonder which group is better able to engage in deep work. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a 39%er.
When I first read the survey, I thought I’d try to monitor myself a bit. I was thinking that surely I could limit myself to a reasonable diet of cell phone emailing. I was wrong. Apparently I have the self-control of Lucy Ricardo wrapping candy. I scaled back for a bit. And then I was right back at my normal obsessive checking. I needed to take a more drastic approach.
I deleted my work email account and my personal Gmail account from my iPhone. I then began obsessively tracking Twitter, Mailchimp, my Weebly stats, etc. I basically replaced one addiction with another. I needed to take even more drastic measures.
I reviewed all the apps I’d installed on my iPhone and asked myself a question: “is this app critical for me, or is it something that just consumes my attention?” If an app fell into the latter category, I deleted it. I started with 5 screens of 20 apps. I now have 26 apps total. The only one that I check with any kind of regularity is my Fitbit app. I figure if there’s an app I check frequently, one for my health isn’t too bad.
It’s been ten days since the great purge. When I’m at home now, about the only thing I do on my phone is check my step count or the weather outside. I’ve used the Outlook Web app once. Between trying to type my secure password in with the onscreen keyboard and the horrible Web interface, it will take one heck of an emergency to make me do this again.
Now when I take the dog out, I don’t grab my phone on the way out the door so I can check in while I’m outside. Instead, I watch the squirrels in the yard, listen to the birds, or enjoy checking on the progress of the budding leaves on our trees and bushes. At night, I watch the stars. I also realized that I’m not checking my phone as I’m walking in the neighborhood. All in all, I’d say I’m definitely more present now. Am I still picking up my phone unconsciously to check my email? Absolutely. Will it get easier over time? I hope so.
My challenge to you
If you find you’re checking your phone more often than you’d like or that it’s interfering with your ability to be present with your colleagues, spouse or kids, it’s time to go cold turkey. Remember, you can still do all the things below on your computer. It just won’t always be in your pocket or purse. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Delete your email accounts. (all of them).
2. Delete Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, and anything else that you find yourself obsessively checking.
3. Delete your games.
4. For everything else, ask yourself, “Is this app critical for me, or is it something that just consumes my attention?” If it’s the latter, delete it.
5. Hide things in folders. They’ll still be on your phone, but less accessible.
Be ruthless! You can always reinstall an app you find you need. Just try to make sure it’s something you need and not something that will control you. I’ve wrested control from my phone. I hope you can too!
Have you made the purge? How’s it going? Any advice for the rest of us?
Please post your comments below.