House Projects

Reduce Screen Time – Part II: Phone Results

technologyA couple of weeks ago I wrote about my challenges with my phone. As discussed here, there is mounting evidence that screen time isn’t great for the kiddos and I want to do my part to remove this device from being a constant distraction throughout the day.

In the post, I mentioned the 5 steps in my plan which were:

  1. Wake up to an alarm that is not my phone.
  2. Check phone stuff and perform phone activities while my daughter is asleep or with my husband.
  3. Put my phone away during the day when my daughter should be my sole focus.
  4. Put the phone in silent mode so I dont hear all of the audible alerts that usually send me running.
  5. Tell my friends and family that I will only be checking my phone during specific times so they aren’t weirded-out by my change in response patterns.

I spent the last 10 days focused on reducing my phone time. And the result?? In short: Holy crap that was even harder than I thought it would be… but I feel a LOT better. Here’s what happened:

The first morning, I woke up to my Fitbit alarm. I instinctively reached for my phone when I remembered that I was going to try not to touch the phone first thing in the morning. My mind raced:

“But what if someone called or texted in the middle of the night?”

“What about my news feed – I need to know the news now!”

“How long has it been since I used the breast pump….”

“I wonder what is on Facebook…”

Ahhhhhhhhrrrrgggghhhhh. Deep breath.

I thought to myself: Can I last 30 minutes. If someone called or texted, they can wait 30 minutes. There isn’t anything that is so important that I need to check in with the online world right now.

I stared at the phone as I was getting dressed as if it was slowing inching forward to me. I left the room to get my daughter and the urge dissolved…until she did something cute and I wanted to take a picture and text it to my husband. Surely that can’t be too bad?

Since it had been longer than 30 minutes, I decided I would allow myself to take a picture and send it to my husband. Then I told myself to put the camera up out of sight until my daughters nap time in a couple of hours. So I picked up the phone and saw TWENTY THREE TEXT MESSAGES! My girlfriends and I have a group text chat that I love. It’s a great way to keep each other updated in our busy lives in between in-person meetups. I checked the text messages…. then Facebook… then Instagram… then as I went to hit the Reddit button, I realized… Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be taking a picture. Ugh. I look at my daughter happily playing away with her toys and remind myself that I don’t want to miss all of these fun moments with her because I’m searching for the hundredth funny cat picture. I snap the picture, text my husband and put the phone away.

During nap time, I text with my girlfriends, check emails, return calls and get everything done online. I realize that if I put the phone down now, I can get a quick workout in before my daughter wakes up. So I do that and feel really accomplished that I didn’t spend the extra time on my phone.

This process repeated for several days. There would be at least two if not more times during the day where my mind would just YEARN for the phone. If I gave in, usually to take pictures, I would end up zoning out on pretty much anything online that I could find. It was like I was transformed into an online zombie silently lurking from site to site until I found something juicy to sink my teeth into. Then suddenly, I would wake up, feel ashamed and put the phone back again.

A couple of days ago, I finally put our nice SLR camera out in the family room. One of the main causes of my slipups was pulling out the camera to capture cute baby moments. I really like the ease of using my phone’s camera then texting it to my husband or our parents. Then I realize that it really is a trigger for my scary zombie moments. Our daughter has been safely playing all of the times that it has happened, but she is going to start crawling soon. I don’t want to be beholden to this device which could make me zone out instead of watching her. I hope that I wouldn’t do that, but seeing how complete I get sucked in sometimes, I don’t know. Thinking of that made me realize that its better to use the SLR and email cool pictures at the end of the day or during naps rather than in the moment snaps.

I also realized that I should apply what I’m good at to solve this problem: lets measure the current state of my phone addiction and see if I can improve in a measurable way. To do this, I tried out two apps. Moment, which is a great usage tracking app if you are ok remembering to screenshot and BreakFree, which is a little more friendly to use but doesn’t seem to be as accurate. Both of these apps require location services in order to work appropriately.  In the end, I deleted BreakFree and “went Pro” with Moment. I can track which apps I’m using, track the overall phone usage, set limits and even use a coaching feature. I use Audible every time I get in the car so I can exclude that app from my limits. To date, I have gone over my limit EVERY DAY, but I am slowly getting better.

In conclusion – here is what I need to add to my original list of 5 steps:

6. Use a different camera!

7. Measure my usage using a tracking app so I can see my progress.

8. Start my day with a little reminder about why I am doing this. Not touching the phone isn’t enough for me. I use a little note that says, “Don’t miss your daughters smiles because a funny cat is calling you”.

9. Soak up the phone time AT THE RIGHT TIME. As soon as she is down for a nap, I get on top of emails, phone calls, ect. I think it has improved my efficiency.

The results? Even after just two weeks: I catch more baby smiles, we play on the floor together more often, I feel more connected to my daughter. We do more together outside of the house. I have spent an extra 10 minutes per day that I would usually be on my phone doing jumping jacks and small exercises and I’m glad to say, I’ve lost weight! I am more focused around my husband and friends. I also feel less “foggy” during the day. I am going to continue on this path and see what happens – Ill post updates if there are any new revelations.

Do you have any other tips for reducing screen time from your phone to share?


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