Striving for So Much Less

New Year’s resolutions don’t often work for me, but I go through the exercise of setting them anyway. I think the arbitrary reboot that New Years can symbolize is an important chance to reassess things. In that spirit, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I want to strive for in 2018. Most are big and ambiguous things that are hard to measure. Be more happy or, at a minimum, less angry. Be more comfortable in silence. Stop devoting so much attention to things that don’t matter to you. Attention spent with something to which you don’t assign great value inherently gives that person/thing/event value.

That last one is the resolution I’ve been working towards the most so far. The main culprit is my phone.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Wonder Boy would advise people to always call him instead of me. “If you are in an emergency and call Kate,” he would say, “you’re probably going to die because she won’t know about your call until a few days later.” It was not an unfair statement.

But anymore, I do answer my phone. It’s always on me or nearby. I’ll still have family comment when I answer, “Oh! You picked up your phone!” It’s my new normal. And it’s such a switch from my initial attitude towards cell phones. My oft-stated belief was that phones aren’t pagers and I’m not on call so why would I always have to be available on my phone? I still stand by that. And yet.

It is through my phone that I consume¬†so much media. I listen to audio books, podcasts and music. It’s the device through which I watch all TV and movies, casting from my phone to the television. I track diet and exercise data there. And, much to my dismay, I waste countless hours screwing around on social media or playing dumb games.

While I still see value in my audio books and in tracking my exercising, most of the rest doesn’t align with my value system, or at least not to the extent that the way I spend my time would imply.

Moment is an iOS app for your phone that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day.

I installed an app on my phone called Moment and it’s been horrifying. Moment tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone, tells you what apps you use for how long and, and this is the scariest part for me, how many times you pick up your phone throughout the day.

Does the measurement itself do anything? No. But if you are motivated by shame, and I am, it’s a good way to change habits.

  • I’ve deleted a lot of social media from my phone and good riddance. I work on social media professionally so I get my fill during the workday. Why do I need it during my downtime?
  • The games on my phone are gone. All but Words with Friends, because I actually use my brain when I play that one (my mom is a fierce competitor!), and it did not prove to be my biggest time suck. Deleting games has been a little harder for me than some of my other changes because games were how I passed time while waiting for people, or buses or whatever.
  • A little related to decreasing my phone use, I’ve also been trying to decrease my television watch-time. Since I watch TV and movies via my phone, one has helped the other.
  • Leaving my phone behind, which is what I unintentionally used to do all the time, is the biggest change. At work, I leave my phone at my desk and then go to all of my meetings. At home the phone is sometimes nearby, but not always. Right now, for instance, I have no idea where it is.

This is still a work in progress for me. Today is January 7 so I’ve still got 51 weeks to continue with and perfect this resolution. In the meantime, I am doubling down on making sure there is always a book in my purse or bag for downtimes. I am trying to be okay with sitting in silence. And I’m finding myself doing crafts again – putting my fingers to much better use than typing on a¬†375 x 258 pixel keyboard.

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