“Manage your phone; don’t let it manage you.”
It may surprise you to know this advice comes from an extremely successful businessman, Sir Richard Branson, rather than a yoga instructor. Branson is a British billionaire who is the founder of Virgin Group, which now controls 400 companies. Branson also cautions us not to be a slave to technology.
As you’re likely aware, most people are glued to their smartphones these days. Take a look at these statistics, compiled by Jari Roomer, author of “Peak Productivity:”
- 46% of smartphone users spend five to six hours a day on their phones.
- Adults spend an average of three hours and 45 minutes on their mobile devices every day.
- We pick up our smartphones 150 to 344 times a day. That’s once every four minutes!
- During the pandemic, daily smartphone usage nearly doubled among children.
As a society, many of us have become reliant on our smartphones to keep us up to date and entertained. Published studies have even shown that we get hits of the happy hormone, dopamine, by checking our phones – and that anxiety can set in when we’ve been unplugged for any length of time.
Cue the acronym FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. You may want to monitor how many times you unconsciously reach for your phone when you have a few spare moments. I won’t ask for a vote, although I’m thinking many phones have been taken to the bathroom.
Where Does the Time Go?
You may lament that you don’t have time for other things you’d like to do. The problem is not a lack of time, says Roomer, but a lack of time management.
“Each day, hours are being wasted on distractions and low-quality entertainment,” Roomer notes.
If you’d like to modify your smartphone usage, this involves changing a habit. And we all know how hard habits are to break.
This may be easier if you take baby steps – and if you have some replacement activities in mind.
“It’s not a shortage of time that should worry us, but the tendency for the majority of time to be spent in low-quality ways,” said Richard Koch, author of “The 80/20 Principle.”
Rather than just drifting along — scrolling and scrolling — Roomer suggests substitutions like the following to enrich our lives:
- Watching a documentary
- Listening to a podcast
- Doing something creative
- Learning a new skill
- Getting organized
- Going for a walk in nature
- Writing in a journal
For a lot of us, too much time is spent watching television and scrolling on smartphones. Jack Canfield, co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” says, “The big problem in America is that everyone is spending two to three hours a day watching TV. If you spend that same amount of time reading, you’ll be in the top 1% of whatever your field is.”
If you substituted a little of that time for reading, you may be amazed at what you could accomplish. Roomer cites that reading 15 pages per day, taking 20-30 minutes, could result in finishing approximately 25 books per year.
“Studies have shown that pursuing creative projects boosts happiness while decreasing stress and anxiety,” explains Roomer. “This is a stark contrast to the effects smartphones tend to have. Studies have shown heavy smartphone usage correlates with increased stress, depression and anxiety.”
We’re not made to stare at screens so much, Roomer notes. “Putting your smartphone away and going outside for a walk in nature can lead to all kinds of benefits. Research has shown that most people spend 90% of their time indoors,” says Roomer.
I found that statistic alarming.
“Because we spend so much time indoors,” Roomer writes, “we lack fundamental health factors such as an active lifestyle, fresh air and vitamin D3 (generated through direct sunlight exposure). This can lead to a number of mental and physical health problems.”
Writing in a journal – for your eyes only – has been shown to provide benefits such as more of a “flow state” to living. “Sit down, grab a pen and paper, and give your mind the space to roam free,” advises Roomer. “It will automatically come up with thoughts, emotions or ideas that require your attention.”
Make Your Own List
Make a list of your highest quality leisure activities. For most people, scrolling through a smartphone doesn’t rank high on the list.
“In many cases, scrolling through a smartphone is a form of low-quality leisure,” says Roomer. “It doesn’t really make us happy, the dopamine spike is short-lived and it usually leaves us feeling more emotionally ‘empty’ than before.”
High-quality leisure, however, comprises activities that spark true happiness. These activities will vary from person to person. You’ll feel it when you make your list of fulfilling activities.
“These activities make us come alive and feel truly fulfilled,” Roomer says. “They spark true happiness in me. They leave me feeling far more fulfilled and mentally ‘rich’ than hours of scrolling through social media.”
Refer to your list when you find yourself spending too much time on your smartphone. With just a few substitutions here and there, you may find yourself feeling more fulfilled and peaceful.
Take a stroll instead of a scroll. Reach more goals, and you’ll be on a roll. After all, it’s within your control!