How I’m reclaiming my life by letting go of my phone
Yesterday I decided I was going to cut way down on my phone use.
Immediately after I made up my mind, I found myself spiraling into a vortex of uncertainty: What would I do with my spare time? How would I know when it would be okay to use it? What if this was the kind of thing where you couldn’t really just do a little? Would I end up like my dad with his 10-year-old flip phone? What would people say? How would I stay in touch with the world?
I felt lost, but I knew I had to start somewhere. So I grabbed my paper planner — which I bought back in December in an eerie and unbeknownst gesture of foreshadowing — and scratched out the following:
11am — 30 minutes
3pm — 15 minutes
7pm — 30 minutes
I had a plan! Now I just had to stick to it.
I consulted my planner for my list of daily tasks.
(Yes, I lost my job as a result of the pandemic. But I’m still working on building my business, studying for a yoga teacher training, making art, and editing my manuscript. Plus there’s all the typical duties like laundry, meditation, and exercise. Really, one can construct one’s list of daily tasks as specifically as one wants. There have been times where I’ve mapped everything out down to the minute, including meals. Other times — like nowadays — I just have a checklist. I move through it checking off each item as I complete it.)
I had plenty to do, so I got right to work. As it turned out, I was able to accomplish my tasks much faster without my phone. It’s not that I had a burning need to get things done quickly, but I wanted to minimize the dreaded feeling of dragging things out.
At 11 on the dot, I grabbed my phone. I responded to texts, checked Instagram, and made my moves on the word games.
By the time I checked the clock, it was 11:22.
I still had eight minutes to play! I checked my email and responded to the texts coming back at me. I posted something on Instagram. I checked to see if people had responded to my word game moves.
And then it was 11:35. I set my phone aside and revisited my list.
And the day continued.
And I survived.
Just before bed, I checked my total screen time. It was two hours and one minute, which was 46 minutes higher than I’d allotted for the day. So where had that extra time come from? Was it the photos I’d taken on my walk? The brief moment I’d uploaded videos to my Instagram outside of my allotted time? Checking my calendar (yes, I still use the calendar on my phone)?
My task today is to be totally honest with myself about my usage. Every single time I pick up my phone.
If I go over my allotted time, I will get nowhere unless I know when and how.
I’ve done a lot of self-investigation and self-work over the years. As the days unfold and I work to curb the use of this tiny device with a touch screen, I can see how managing my phone behavior is a type of self-work. Being totally honest with myself about screen time is a beautiful way to launch into a deeper knowing of the forces at work, a necessary inroads into understanding myself with compassion and love.
It’s also self-care, because I am giving time back to myself in service of my passions. I am reclaiming my life.
I am getting free.