In modern business, accomplishing tasks and staying connected to customers and coworkers is necessary for success, but it comes with a price. In today’s age, rather than measuring how many widgets we make or ship, our productivity is instead understood by measures such as “average response time” or “inbox zero.” This required connectivity makes the world spin faster and puts a paycheck in our pockets, sure, but there’s no arguing that it also leads to more stress caused by “bringing our work home” with us. No one can be blamed for checking work email or taking calls on their free time. After all, responding quickly vs. slowly can be the difference between a happy customer and a lost one or even the difference between a promotion or being laid off.
The problem is, however, when the weekend finally arrives it becomes nearly impossible to disconnect and enjoy life away from the screens, alerts, and vibrations. Our need for “inbox zero” leaks into the weekend, becoming like a relative who first stopped by unexpectedly and is now overstaying her welcome.
To make matters more complicated, for most of us anyway, simply turning our phones off is not an option anymore. Our lives are benefited (or controlled) by the regular use of apps like Uber, Google Maps, Alarm Clock, or Venmo. So, rather than proposing extremes, such as throwing your iPhone into a black hole for the weekend, I will instead give six practical ways to disconnect and “unplug,” all while having full access to your smartphone when you need it.
#1 Turn vibrate OFF
The easiest way to keep your phone from constantly interrupting your life is to turn the vibrate setting off. The concept is simple yet it makes a world of difference. Adopt this mindset: turn the sound ringer on when you want to be able to hear a ring but turn it off when you don’t. This allows you to decide when you want to be interrupted and when you don’t. For instance, if I am at dinner with friends, I do not want to feel my phone buzzing in my pocket, even if the notification might be important. I’d rather stay in the moment.
#2 Turn notification badges OFF
The little red notification badge has a special skill, doesn’t it? It can easily grab your attention and consume your thoughts until it forces you to click and send it away. Even if vibrate function is turned off as directed in tip #1, this won’t stop you from looking at your phone subconsciously and seeing that devilish red notification badge, which is nearly impossible to ignore.
Unfortunately, in iOS there is no easy way to do this. Badges have to be turned off per each individual application. I recommend turning them off for the most notable offenders of weekend disruption, such as email, facebook, etc.
#3 Turn grayscale ON
The display of the iPhone can be converted to completely black and white and the effect this has is staggering. When “grayscale” is implemented, the phone looks ugly, and every time you mindlessly look at your phone you will find a boring, grayish display. I promise, you will quickly lose interest in your phone. While all of the apps and information are still the same, you won’t get sucked into endless scrolling, flicking, and clicking because it won’t give you the same endorphin rush as the colored screen does.
#4 Move apps to back pages
Email has the ability to pull a weekend warrior right out of the moment and into the stress of the nine-to-five. And be honest with yourself, checking work email on a weekend rarely ever leads to the discovery of good news, only bad, right? So do yourself a favor and move the email icon (and any other apps that suck you in) to a back page. Simply press and hold the icon until it starts wiggling, then drag it as far back as it can go.
Doing this will have two effects. One, you will no longer see the icon each time you look at your phone, which creates an “out of sight, out of mind effect.” Two, you will realize as you flip to the back page that you don’t really need (or want) to be checking on it. Creating this small barrier between you and the app gives your brain time to realize this.
5# Download the Checky app
How many times a day do you think you check your phone? Not sure? Checky, a free app found in the Apple App Store, tells you how many times you have checked your iPhone each day. This was so revealing to me the first time I used it that I ended up deleting the app out of sheer embarrassment and denial. After less than two hours, I had opened the app to find that I checked my phone 57 times. Ouch.
Using Checky will reveal how constantly attached you are to your smartphone and it will immediately make you want to cut the umbilical cord.
#6 Put your iPhone out of arm’s–length
It sounds too easy, but simply putting your phone out of reach will help you almost completely disconnect and enjoy the moment more than if the phone is in your pocket or purse, or sitting next to you. This trick is easily the most effective (and realistic) of all of the ways to disconnect.
If you have two levels in your home, for instance, then leave the phone upstairs while you are downstairs. If your space is smaller, such as a studio apartment, then tuck it in the far opposite corner of the room, maybe even in a drawer. If you are driving, put it in the back seat or trunk. If you are hiking, put it in your backpack. Any separation that puts your phone both “out of sight” and “out of reach” will most certainly help make it “out of mind.”
The first time I tried this I was in awe of how great I felt. Ironically, I placed the phone upstairs while I watched Netflix downstairs with my wife. Even while watching TV, I felt better about not having it attached at my hip. How’s that for twenty-first century?
(Bonus) #7 Leave home without it
For those who really want to live in the moment, enjoy the weekend, and recharge completely, the best thing you can do is leave home without your smartphone.
I know, this sounds crazy, right? Try baby steps. Leave it home when you go grocery shopping, to the gym, or to meet friends for dinner. You won’t miss it for that hour or two and you will be surprised at the whole new world that opens up when you go out without it.
The truth is, our constant connectivity to smartphones is a matter of habit, rather than a conscious choice of how we want to live our lives. Leaving your smartphone at home periodically will make you feel empowered over your choice to be connected or not to be. It will help you see new things, meet new people, and think new thoughts. When Monday rolls around, you will be able to reconnect and re-engage while feeling completely refreshed and reinvigorated about your work.
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If you want more reading on this topic, check out other posts on It’s Me, Chris:
- Being in Two Places at Once
- Ditch Your Smartphone While you Poop
- Don’t Let the Camera Interrupt the Moment