I recently installed an app, Quality Time, to track how much time I was spending on there and what I was doing. I had a vague idea that it was a lot but wasn’t sure exactly how much, and for the last few months I’ve not really wanted to know. But after finally getting diagnosed with having tension headaches that have been plaguing me at work — and finally realising my phone usage was one big compulsion I’d just decided was “fine” for some reason — I figured it might be time to bite the bullet.
12 hours. On both Saturday and Sunday. My work days weren’t much better, and were characterised by multiple unlocks just to check … Something that wasn’t even there?
I remember very little about what I was doing during that time either. Just a blur of reddit, YouTube, Facebook, etc… I remember that I felt exhausted the entire time and hardly wanted to get up to use the bathroom or make food, let alone anything else.
It’s gotta stop. That much is clear.
I know me. Cold turkey won’t work. For a few very simple reasons: first, my phone is a clear avoidance tactic from all sorts of emotions and sensations (exhaustion, depression, anxiety, aforementioned headaches, sometimes hunger or boredom too) that I just haven’t been ready to confront.
Secondly, until recently I’ve only had vague ideas what else I want to do with my time, and only had a few spoons available to actually do them. After the stress of starting a new job and battling imposter syndrome I was/am emotionally exhausted all the time. Probably dehydrated and malnourished too. Not to mention I had the wrong glasses and bad posture to bat (only just set my desk up properly). Really shows how easily you can fall into a spiral you can’t get out of.
Anyway, here’s my plan for the weeks ahead, keeping in mind that I need to take the smallest steps to make this sustainable. Follow along if you wish, but bear in mind I haven’t finished either so I am not sure if it’ll work yet!
Step 1: Work out where and when you use your phone.
Make a map of your day. I indicated on this map literally every possible situation I could/have used my phone in the past, being as specific as possible. During breakfast? Before a shower? IN the shower? Waiting for a train? On the train? Between jobs at work? Waiting for a kettle to boil? Yup, done all of them.
Step 2: Rate those situations based on anxiety level.
Take all the situations above and number them based on how much anxiety it would cause you to not use your phone at all in those situations. 1 is ‘Yup, don’t give a fuck. I could never do it again during that time and not care’ and 10 is ‘Holy fuck no way I need it.’
Again, be specific, and note that some activities might differ in anxiety level even if they look the same. Not using during breakfast is about a 1 or 2 for me, but my evening meal is like, 4. I think this is mostly due to energy level and having less motivation later on in the day, but that’s the point — cutting out phone usage in the easy places first.
Step 3: Gradually move through the list, 1-10, finding new activities to fill the gap as you go.
Pretty self explanatory. I’m up to about 3 right now, which more or less amounts to trying not to use my phone at all before I get to work. These are easier first because of the energy/motivation stuff, but also because I have clear things to do in the morning and a cut-off time for each activity: I read or write for about half an hour after getting ready for work, then I leave, walk to the train station, catch the train etc.
My time is very segmented and each activity has something new to do, so I just have to get to the next and start again 🙂
On the other hand, I noticed that my 9s and 10s on the scale centre mainly around bed time, not using my phone when I’m exhausted/anxious, or when I have a headache (ironically). That’s more or less because I’m not ready to confront the discomfort of being anxious about sleep, or being in pain. We’ll work up to that in a few months (depending on how long this takes me), and it’d be nice if I can reduce time in those areas but it’s not a priority yet.
I think it’ll vary how long I need to spend on each part of the scale before it ‘sticks’. These early ones are easy but I’m doing a few at once since they’re low level and feed into each other. I may have to continue like this for maybe 2-3 weeks before I feel comfortable moving into the rest of my day.
I can’t say for sure whether this plan will work but at the least I think it might be more sustainable for me than cold turkey, especially because I do still need my phone at times and a blanket cut out wouldn’t be feasible.
If nothing else I’ll have started a better morning routine, and cut my phone out of some of the low level, useless parts of my day! (Do I really need my phone on the loo…?)