Making My Phone (& Myself) Better

There are two things that my girlfriend noticed about me recently; I'm playing with my phone way too much, and that I won't stop playing with my phone. So ever since we went on that road trip across Canada, I've been trying to find ways to unplug. I'll read articles on the proper ways to unplug for the weekend, or how someone has one day a week in which they don't use their phone. It's all well and fine when you read that, but trying to put that into practice is much harder than it looks.

However, once you do it, you understand why so many people are advocating this approach. It work. For instance, this past weekend, I was in Mont-Tremblant. It's absolutely beautiful up there, and even knowing that, I didn't take too many photos. Instead, I actively chose to just experience it with my friends.

One thing that I do keep coming back to is my phone. Every so often, I'll do this whole overhaul of the apps I use and how I use them. Sometimes I'll start with a purge of my social media, and then my news sources, and from there, slowly build it back up. But what I keep coming back to is my homescreen. What you have on your homescreen deeply personal and says a lot about who you are as a person. I'm always looking at mine from the viewpoint of a stranger who might happen to glance at my phone, and what they might think of me.

Lately however, I've started to take a slightly different approach. Instead of my homescreen being a place where I have my most used apps, it's a place where I have the apps I wish I used more. It's more aspirational now - the homescreen of the person I want to be.

I replaced Twitter and Reddit with Flipboard (the newest update is seriously rad), because I want to be more in control of my news-reading. With the insane amount of news surrounding the Trump administration, I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by social media. It's still there, but only when I'm ready for it now. I also removed Pocket, because it's become a black hole of things I want to read but know I never will, and instead replaced it with an eBook reader.

The other big thing that I did was remove any and all games from my phone. I was never big into gaming in the first place, but they always felt like an unnecessary distraction, especially given my backlog of podcasts and audio books that I want to get through. Instead, now I've got a budget app on my phone that sends me daily updates about my finances, reminding me that I really don't need to buy that third coffee to get me through the day.

And the other thing is that I downloaded one of those guided meditation apps. Not because I meditate, but because everyone I knows keeps telling me that it's amazing and that sometimes I could use an extra dosage of chill. And now that it's there, I'm finding that I'm actually using it, instead of aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Reddit feeds without much purpose other than to kill some time.

It's absolutely crazy to me how powerful a homescreen can be. Even now, after relegating some of the apps into the app drawer (which is still only a single swipe-up away from me), I find that I'm still wasting too much time aimlessly browsing through my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Reddit feeds in order to kill some time. At least once a week, I'll send my girlfriend a screenshot of my homescreen, and she'll laugh, because it's the same layout, but I might have moved some of the icons around.

I'm still in the early stages of this experiment of making my phone a device that helps me to be more sane, focused, and productive. And not productive in the "Do More Work" sense of the term, but productive in actually making meaningful progress on the things that I want to achieve for myself. 

Habits are hard to break, but I'm really hoping that the old adage, "out of sight, out of mind," will come to bear some truth for me. But, maybe not. Maybe all I'm doing is moving some icons around.