Over the past decade, smartphones have revolutionized the way we work, communicate and access information about each other and the world. As much as this technology has changed our lives for the better, emerging research is also warning that many of us are spending far more time on our phones than we’re aware of. A 2015 study from the United Kingdom found that most people are spending twice as much time on their smartphones as they think they are, and that young adults are on their phones an average of five hours a day. Deliberate use of our phones often helps us to be more efficient, connected and informed, such as when we answer important calls and e-mails on the go, read articles, or participate in social media, but less deliberate uses such as aimless checking and scrolling through newsfeeds for hours can lead to less productivity at work and less relaxation and happiness at home. Never allowing ourselves to disconnect from our devices can also contribute to disrupted sleep, higher stress levels and feelings of anxiety.
A “Smartphone Diet” can help to restore balance and intentionality in your phone usage, so that you’re able to enjoy all of the benefits of being connected without the downsides.
There are many ways to implement a Smartphone Diet into your daily routine and that of your family:
- Consider setting a “bedtime” for your phone after which time you don’t check it until morning. Preferably do this at least a couple of hours before you go to sleep, so that you have time to wind down from your workday. You could set a recurring alarm to remind you to do this, i.e. at 7:00 pm.
- Set up regular intervals during the day to check e-mail, social media and other messages, so that you’re not finding yourself doing this multiple times an hour
- Silence or turn off your phone during mealtimes, and spend the time instead savouring your food and talking with your partner or family
- Disable any alerts that aren’t absolutely necessary, as these can derail your focus in the middle of other important activities
- Have regular offline date nights with your partner or spouse. This will enable you both to enjoy uninterrupted private time to reconnect with each other.
- To ensure that vacations and weekends are actually relaxing breaks from work, set up an autoreply message or if you need to be checking e-mail, set aside certain times in the day to do this, and refrain from checking during your recreational time
- Talk to your boss, employees and other people you communicate with regularly about the boundaries you’ve set around your e-mail usage, so that expectations are clear
- Create pockets of time in your day to recharge and to physically separate yourself from your phone for 10-20 minutes. This might involve taking time for a quick walk outside for sunshine and fresh air or just a simple coffee break.
The intention of a Smartphone Diet is not to diminish any of the useful, enjoyable and important tasks we need our phones to do every day, but to ensure that we feel in control of how and when we choose to use our phones. People often find that their productivity and stress levels improve when they get regular breaks from their phones, and also that they achieve more balance between their online and offline priorities.
Zoë Laksman has practiced as a Registered Clinical Psychologist at The Clinic on Dupont since 2007. Laura Clarridge is a certified executive coach who helps her clients find fulfilling educational and career pathways. Their backgrounds and training have shaped their interest in promoting improved psychological health, interpersonal functioning and wellness. They work together as a clinical team and as the developers of The Clinic on Dupont’s online presence.