I believe that time with family and friends, real quality time, is sacred. I know that a growing number of us are finding it easier and easier to get distracted by technology, specifically our smartphones.
Just look around and it's easy to see... couples on a dinner date, he's checking the sports score, she's liking photos on Instagram. Family movie night... kids are engrossed in the latest princess movie while Mom and Dad are busy pinning crafty ideas on Pinterest and reading the latest news on CNN. Friends standing next to each other at a concert, liking each others' Facebook statuses instead of having a real live conversation.
Those aren't hypothetical examples. I've lived every one of those scenarios... certainly not every day, but more often than I'd like to admit. And I'm tired of being that person that misses the life in front of me. Our phones are supposed to help us ENJOY our lives, right? And they do. But where there aren't any boundaries around it (like for many of us), it has started to STEAL our lives. And that's the problem we are trying to solve.
Studies show that the average smartphone user spends two hours per day on their phone -- and only 97 minutes per day with their family. And 58 percent of young adults admit that they spend too much time on their smartphones.
It's time to change the way we interact with our technology and I've got five simple ways to help you do that! Each of these things has helped me create better habits around my smartphone usage... and I hope that they can help you too.
Start a conversation with your family, your friends, your coworkers and set boundaries for your smartphone use. Don't know where to begin exactly? Try these on for size: no Facebooking during date night, no emails during family dinner, no texting during work meetings. We've started to blur the line between what is considered acceptable and what is not. It's time to re-draw that line! The idea is simple. Set clear expectations for what is acceptable smartphone use and what is not in your family and your social circles. Our own kids don't have devices yet, but they will one day soon. We realized that they are learning how to interact with their smartphones by watching us right now. So we've made a conscious effort to have conversations with them about why we choose to put our phones down during family time.
Turn off push notifications and set custom ringtones for all of your favorite people. We all know those familiar dings, chirps, and chimes... and if you're anything like me, you're so accustomed to grabbing your phone when you hear the sound that it's almost like second nature. If you turn off ALL your push notifications, all of those familiar little noises will disappear from your life, and so will the urge to constantly pick up your phone! By setting custom ringtones, you can ensure that you only go running when you hear the phone ring if it's someone important. I'm SO glad I took the extra step to set up custom ringtones on my phone recently. I used to rush to my phone every evening when the automated "your-kid-is-out-of-lunch-money" call came through. Now I know it's not important and I let it go to voicemail.
Move your social media apps to the second screen of your phone. If you have an iPhone, I'd be willing to bet you've seen those little red notification icons so many times they are burned into your brain. By moving your social media apps to the second screen of your phone, you guarantee that you won't see all those nagging notifications every single time you turn on your phone. I have a tendency to want to clear all the notifications every time I pick up my phone (I blame that on my Type A personality), and this has really helped me manage that desire. Now, when I pick up my phone to do a quick task, I can accomplish the task and move on without getting sucked in quite as often!
Designate an unplugged time every day. This is easy and you can tailor it to fit your lifestyle. One of the best ways to create a new habit is to practice it! By making a conscious effort to unplug during certain times every day, you're living intentionally and making a positive impact on your smartphone habits every single day. In our house, we have phone-free time every day after school, from 4 p.m. until our kids go to bed. This has really allowed us to focus our time and energy on our kids every evening instead of social media and emails. Now that school is out for the summer, we're limiting our phone time to our working hours so we can make the most of summer vacation.
Get yourself a visual reminder. Visual reminders are a great way to keep us on track when we're implementing new and better habits. You can paint your thumbnails red to remind yourself not to text and drive, set a reminder on your phone to remember your screen-free time each day, or even create a special landing place for your phones to go during that screen-free time. That's what our family did! We created a monster... a Phone Monster. And his name is Ned. He's our visual reminder to be present and the tangible tool that we use every day to help us build better habits around unplugging. You can get your very own Ned the Phone Monster on Kickstarter right now.
If you have a tip to add to the conversation about how to create better habits for smartphone usage, we'd love to hear it! Leave a comment below or tweet us at @phonemonsters.