It’s undeniable that cell phones have played a huge role in shaping our culture; changing the way we live, work, and interact with others. Stop for a second and think about how amazing your cell phone is. Once, a phone’s only purpose was to send sound waves through a system of wires. Now, this pocket sized device plays the role of countless technological inventions; camera, calculator, GPS, computer (the list goes on and on). Alexander Graham Bell would surely be impressed.
While our phones act as a great tool for productivity, they can also work against us, causing us to get less done and be less mindful to what is happening around us. We find ourselves falling prey to the addictive nature of having our phone always on hand; scrolling through social media mindlessly, responding to texts regularly, and needing to be informed immediately.
Surely you've been there, and surely you’ve also wanted a break from it all. It can be frustrating to find balance. We are left wondering; How can we determine and break unproductive cell phone habits? In what ways can we practice being present in a culture that is loaded with distraction? What personal cell phone guidelines can we set that in turn help us live more fully?
I’d love to share my thoughts on these questions, keeping in mind that I am by no means an expert at using my phone wisely and productively. We are definitely in this together. :)
Take a look at your habits.
Often, we go through the day using our phone without much thought about why. We keep it on our desk while we are working, we make sure we have it on hand while running errands, and even use it while driving from one place to another. It’s around us all day everyday, and we usually use it for normal and healthy reasons; to communicate with coworkers, check in with family, etc. However, we also use our phones simply out of habit or boredom. In many cases we have gotten so used to having our cell phone with us, that we don't even think about putting it away in certain situations.
Everyone has different cell phone patterns, but are you aware of your own? The first thing we can do is determine just how much time we are spending on our phones and for what purpose. Spend a day being hyper aware of your cell phone use; tracking the times and reasons you are using your phone. This should give you a clear idea of your tendencies. Once you are aware of your habits, you can start to make little changes as you see fit.
Practice being present.
One cultural shift that has come with the use of cell phones is that we feel the need to be informed immediately and be constantly accessible to others. We keep our phones close because we are afraid that we might miss something. Our brains are on high alert for what the next bit of information coming our way will be. Often times this affects our focus and attention span. Simply practicing the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy can positively affect our workflow. There are countless studies that show that the human brain isn't actually wired to be good at multitasking. To truly do things well, we must focus on one thing at a time. Start the practice of being present by putting your phone away while working.
Being on your cell phone also sends a message to the people around you. While your intention is not to be dismissive or cold-hearted, using your phone during a conversation or other social settings can send a negative message. Often, our first instinct when we are in an uncomfortable social situation, is to grab our phone. In doing this, we may be missing out on building meaningful relationships and ignoring opportunities to be empathetic toward others.
Set practical guidelines.
We can usually recognize bad cell phone etiquette in others, but often fail to realize when we are to blame. What are some practical ways to change our habits? As with most good things in life, balance is key. Using a cell phone is not wrong, but being present to the people around us should take priority.
Set personal guidelines for your cell phone use. Turn off your social media notifications, put your phone away while working, keep your phone in another room at night, go out to dinner and leave your phone in the car, only check Instagram in the evening… There are so many tiny changes you can make and it is up to you to decide what habits you may need to break. It is less about making rules for yourself, and more about being present in your everyday. Ultimately, learning to enjoy a slower, richer lifestyle.
So sure, have a cell phone, and use it! But more importantly, have a deep love for life and others. Spend more time in the presence of family and friends. Make something beautiful with your hands. Sing and dance around the house in your pajamas. Cook an amazing meal and share it with others. Work hard toward making your dreams a reality. Go and “do”, keeping in mind that your cell phone is more of an accessory than a necessity.
words by lindsay - project manager
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