This one habit shift will change your life
This one habit shift will change your life
We spend an average of 2 hours and 54 minutes on our phones each day. Mobile usage hit record highs in 2021, with global consumers collectively spending 3.8 trillion hours looking at their phones. Eighty six percent of smartphone users check their device while in conversations with friends, family, and colleagues.
We have become so heavily reliant on a 5-inch piece of hardware. It has started to impact other areas of our life, and for many, it has even become an addiction.
Every digital interruption takes a toll, neurologically, psychologically, and physically. A 2018 UT Austin (Go Longhorns!) study found that just the presence of your phone (even if face down or turned off) decreases cognitive bandwidth and working memory. In a test of cognitive ability, people whose phones were in another room significantly outperformed people whose phones were in their pockets and slightly outperformed those whose phones were in nearby bags.
Now don’t get me wrong, these miniature computers serve an important purpose. They allow us to stay connected, stay informed, learn new information, and be entertained. They can also become a problem when they control our lives.
For many of us, having our phone is a security blanket or a way to prevent boredom. The irony is that being bored is really good for you. Our need to fill every single second with entertainment means that we don’t have the time to just be still, giving our minds a rest from working so hard and constantly being on alert.
Do you use your phone purposefully or habitually? When we are stressed, tired, or under pressure, we are more likely to fall back on habitual patterns of thinking and behaving, which is why it is so important to identify whether your habits are serving you.
These small habit shifts can make a big impact on the way you navigate digital distractions:
Start by making slight edge changes
In my first book 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work, I talked about the slight edge. Too much change, too fast, equals no change at all. Incremental changes over time bring lasting results. Rather than swearing off your phone forever, take baby steps.
Try sleeping with your phone in a different room. And for those of you who just said to yourself, “But it’s my alarm clock!”, guess what? They make those. Next time you have dinner with a friend or a meeting with a colleague, leave your phone out of sight. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll be amazed at how present you are in the moment.
Your habits allow you to conserve mental energy. We depend on them. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t know the difference between a good habit and a bad habit. Mindfulness helps you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, habits, and behaviors in the moment. Only then can you decide whether or not they are serving you. Recognize when you’re checking your phone out of habit or boredom.
A slight edge shift might be replacing 10 minutes of screen staring with a meditation app instead. Mindfulness is a practice, and what you practice grows stronger. Don’t worry about mastering these practices and just focus on doing them because it’s the doing that changes you.
Turn FOMO into JOMO
Do you find yourself habitually checking social media? Whether it’s standing in line at a grocery store or riding an elevator, our need to check status, likes, comments, and be “in the know” is seeping mental energy. Social media can be great if it helps you connect with others and build relationships, but not when it starts impacting your mood or causes you to constantly compare yourself with others. The next time you find yourself heading for a social media fix, ask yourself if it is the best use of your time. Turn FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) into JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out)! We are so worried about missing out, that we end up missing out. Stillness can be profound. Most of us just don’t take time to experience it.
When you want to form a new habit, make it a ritual. Remember habit stacking? Because new habits are difficult to cultivate, “stack” a new habit onto an existing one. This makes it easier to stick with it. When you want to break a habit, create friction to make it harder to do. For example, keep your phone in your desk or bag so you’re not tempted to check it as often.
We have a finite amount of attention, so it is important to be deliberate about where we focus it. While it may be tempting to knock out an email at a red light or respond to that text while having a meal with a friend, practice being present.
The more often you practice, the easier it gets. Behave your way into the life you want.
Want more tips for controlling digital distractions? Check out this post from my friend and attention management expert, Maura Thomas, on taking charge of technology and regaining power over our attention.
Stay brave and resilient,
Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.
Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.