Your Phone Should Be Like Your Toothbrush
If your phone was more like your toothbrush, your life would be a lot better.
Your toothbrush is the greatest tool of all time. You only use it when you’re supposed to, for as long as you need to, and then, you let it go.
That’s what the best tools do: They put you in control at all times, even when you’re not using them. That’s because all great tools optimize for mindfulness. They preserve your time, attention, and energy instead of draining them.
A tool must have three properties to achieve this:
- It only triggers you when you actually benefit from using it.
- It requires as little of your time as possible once you pick it up.
- It prompts you to put it back down it as soon as you’re done.
Your phone does the opposite of all of these, and that’s why, in its standard configuration, it’s a terrible tool. Your phone calls for your attention 24/7, and once it has you, it never wants to let you go.
We now spend almost four hours on our phone, every single day. That’s 28 hours per week, which means on top of your normal job, you are basically working full-time at a call center. That is insane.
Luckily, you can bring the three properties of great, mindful tools to your phone, and all it takes is a few taps:
- Disable almost all notifications. The only time your phone should tell you “hey, come check me!” is when it matters. That means for calls, meetings, and anything time-sensitive, which 99% of things aren’t.
- Eliminate vibration. Phones now vibrate so strongly, they might as well ring. Turn it off. Demand actual silence. Force yourself to make a deliberate decision every time you pick up your phone.
- Hide your phone from view for most of the day. Out of sight, out of mind. It really is that simple. Put it in your bag, hide it behind your laptop, or keep it in another room. If it’s not there, you won’t miss it.
Whether you are walking, working, relaxing, or going about your life in any of its many enjoyable forms, you don’t need a visual cue vying for your attention. You need that attention, and you need all of it.
Think. Focus. Engage. These are the true tasks of the mind.
Much like the discovery of fire, smartphones put more power in our hands than we could handle. The difference is we invented smartphones. Let’s show them their place before we get burned.