When is the last time you were bored? Most of us are connected and even take our phones to the bathroom. There’s been a growing movement of unplugging as we are now realizing that there are negative consequences to being constantly connected.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to set boundaries and limit my screen time not only for my own peace of mind but also to show others that I care about them and am engaged and listening. Having the phone on the table, (even upside down), sends a message that you are not 100% present and that you are willing to be interrupted. Even a quick glance at it after it vibrates or flashes is disruptive and sends the message that the person in front of you is not as important as the person on the phone.
Mostly, I’ve been thinking about opportunity cost and all of the things I could be doing if I were not so attached to my phone. Here are some strategies that I have been using:
No phones when eating
You may be thinking that if you are eating alone that this rule (or strategy) shouldn’t be applied, after all, it’s just you and your time. This is where the power of boredom and opportunity cost comes in, and of course there is a lot to be said about mindful eating for those trying to lose weight. You could sit there and play a game or browse social media, or you could think about your day, your plans for the future, and do some conscious planning. You may even be bored for a little bit. When I am with others, I have been leaving the phone in the glove box of the car and not even taking it inside. My kids are grown now, so I don’t worry as much about a crisis happening during the one hour I might spend in a restaurant with my husband or friends. Many of my friends have their phones out during gatherings and I have been more conscious of how rude it seems. Take a picture of your meal if you must, but then put the phone away and be present with the others at the table.
Delete Cell Phone Games
This is a hard one. I have probably spent $100 on Candy Crush and love mindless games. I recently noticed a colleague checking his cell phone game frequently during meetings (so distracting). It was through his behavior that I started thinking about the time I spend on cell phone games. Then I started thinking about all the things I could be doing (like writing blog articles). On a whim, I deleted all of my games at once. All of them, the entire folder of games. I had a bit of shell shock and “What have I done” crossed my mind. In the weeks that followed, I did find myself reaching for my phone but there were no plants to harvest, no gold to mine, and much like opening and closing the fridge, I find myself picking up and putting down the phone wistfully, but I have written more articles and planned future ones – things I wasn’t doing when I was playing games.
Closing all saved tabs
I am a digital hoarder. On my cell phone I have Chrome and Safari internet browsers and both applications had over 100 open tabs. They were full of recipes I wanted to save, articles I wanted to read, or products I wanted to buy. In my crazy moment of clarity, I deleted all the open tabs on both browsers. I felt sick to my stomach, because I didn’t even look at them so I don’t know what I lost. I know if I had looked at them, I would have made an excuse to keep them and I may have improved the problem but not solved it. Although I still feel a mild stress wondering what I lost, I haven’t missed anything and I have no idea what I deleted. Now my cell phone has no games, and no open tabs and the next step is to tackle my unread emails and social media sites.
Without these things, we are back to being bored. I didn’t do the cleanse of my social media sites yet and I still find myself opening and closing Facebook mindlessly throughout the day. Otherwise I find myself feeling relief. I am no longer tethered to tiny cartoons in a game. I don’t feel pressured by all the browser tabs full of things I felt I needed to capture somehow. I even find myself being bored sometimes. I take a breath and then remember that I have a ton of things that I said I would do “when I have time”. I’m writing, planning, and spending more quality time at home and with myself.