Why You Should Stop Taking Your Phone To The Bathroom
I am free, but I am priceless,
You can’t own me, but you can use me,
You can’t keep me, but you can spend me,
And when I am lost, you can never get me back.
What am I?
Time is a funny thing. It isn’t very often that you hear people say ‘I had just enough time today to achieve everything I wanted.’ More often than not they either have too much time that they have to kill it, or their lives are just too busy to get things done. I fall into the latter group, in that recently I’ve convinced myself that there simply are not enough hours in the day to do the things I want to do.
Time Waits For No One
I’ve not been writing very much lately. In the last month, I’ve only published two articles to Medium, and the first draft of my novel remains untouched in weeks, gathering dust in the darkness of the Google Drive folder in which it resides.
In my head, I’ve attributed my slump in productivity to the fact that I’ve had to move house, while I’ve also been helping with a new store opening at work which has turned my 12-mile daily commute into a 75-mile slog. So at the end of a hard day’s work, I’m faced with an hour-long drive home, at the end of which I can barely muster the energy to feed myself, let alone put my mind to something which requires mental exertion like writing.
I love writing. Ever since I started writing on Medium back in May, I would go to bed with a half-baked idea in my head and I’d wake up with an entire article plotted out. Yet I found myself suffering from a case of Medium burnout, which was only exacerbated by the upheaval at work and at home, and I convinced myself that I didn’t have the time to do the thing that I love.
If you want something badly enough, you will make time for it
Recently I was scrolling through Facebook (yes, in the bathroom), and I came across this short video:
It hit me hard, because it made me realise that I, like many others, have become a slaves to my smartphone. You might think my use of the word ‘slave’ is extreme in this case. But if you’re unable to leave your phone at home without feeling a pang of anxiety that you might miss a notification, hell if you can’t even go to the toilet without taking your phone with you, then what are you, if not a slave to your phone?
But all is not lost.
I’m here to help you, with five steps to help you take back control of your time (and your bathroom breaks)
1. Acknowledge the problem
Until you realise that your smartphone is affecting your life in a negative way, you will never take steps to resolve the issue. For me, the shock factor of realising just how much time was being squandered on my phone is what did it. I downloaded one of many free applications which track smartphone usage. What I saw absolutely appalled me.
In a one week period, I spent 24 hours using my smartphone.
An entire day.
So I’ll spend three and a half hours a day using my phone, but I don’t have time to write? But as shocking as that number was to me, my usage per day is below that of the average smartphone user. On average smartphone users are on their device four hours per day. Maybe I don’t have a problem after all…back to Facebook I go.
I kid, of course.
If you’d rather not have your phone usage laid bare as I did, asking yourself these questions might help:
Do you check your phone the first thing in the morning/last thing at night?
Do you take your phone to the bathroom with you?
Does the thought of leaving your phone at home when you go out cause you to feel anxious?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, then you might have a problem. But you’ve taken the first step.
Acknowledge the problem.
2. Delete The Apps That Are Stealing Your Time
Phone applications can be wonderful things. Whether you want to check your bank balance, order your Starbucks on the go, or even find out the name of a song you can hear playing on the radio. You name it, there’s an app for it. The convenience and speed that apps provide to make our lives that little bit easier makes them addictive, make us feel like we couldn’t live without them.
App creators know this. It is their job to try to get you to use the app as much as possible. After all, developing a product in the hope that nobody uses isn’t likely to be a very successful business model.
Take Candy Crush Saga for example. First released at the end of 2012, yet seven years later, it is still number-two on the ‘Top Grossing’ list in Google’s Play Store and has been downloaded more than 500,000,000 times. Anyone who has ever played it knows how addictive it is. It’s simple, it’s fun and it gives you a great sense of reward and progression which makes it so easy to play one more level. And another, and another, oh look it’s 2 am, where did the time go?
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Candy Crush, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Whatever application is taking up the most of your time, delete it. Or if you can’t quite manage to go cold turkey, schedule yourself half an hour, mornings and evenings where you allow yourself to check these apps. But if you have the willpower, delete the apps that are stealing your time.
3. Using Your Phone In Bed
If you want to reclaim your time and help improve your sleep patterns, this is possibly the simplest way to do so. Since I became aware of just how much I was using my phone, I have designated my bedroom a smartphone-free zone. Why? Because while most of use our smartphone as an alarm clock, what is the first thing we do when our alarm goes off? We snooze our alarm, or we turn it off. Either way, we’re interacting with our phones before we’ve even opened our eyes properly. And once your phone is in your hand, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to open Facebook, or Instagram, because we need to see what’s been going on in our social network in the eight hours (probably less if you’re a phone addict) since we went to sleep.
Suddenly, you’re scrolling, scrolling, still scrolling, oh look a video, and then before you know it, your morning is gone, and you either have to rush to get ready for work, or your day off which you’d planned on being super-productive has now disappeared. But don’t worry, at least you got to watch that funny video of a cat dancing to the Macarena.
The next time you get the itch to use your phone in bed, I want you to think of the most successful person you can. Now we all measure success differently, and depending on what field you choose you will likely think of somebody completely different to me. But whether the name you choose is Bill Gates, Taylor Swift, Ellen Degeneres or Michael Jordan, ask yourself this.
Can I imagine that person lying in bed in the morning scrolling through Facebook?
Probably not, so neither should you.
Buy yourself an alarm clock (this one costs $8), and keep your phone out of the bedroom.
4. Turn off notifications
Phone notifications are the ultimate productivity killer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working, doing laundry, or at the gym, most of us are unable to resist the temptation of checking our phone when we hear it go off. Somebody or something wants my attention, I need to check my phone. Because it feels good, right? Your brain gives you a hit of dopamine, and it leaves you wanting more. Suddenly you’re back on your phone again, distracted from whatever it is you were doing.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, Reddit, Pinterest. Turn them all off. The only notifications I have left on my phone now are for phone calls, messages and emails. You know, the ways that people will get hold of me if they need to. If something is happening in my life that needs my attention, it sure as hell isn’t going to be happening on Instagram, so why do I need the notifications?
Turn off your notifications, thank me later.
5. Leave your phone at home, or in the car.
I know, this sounds crazy. But do you need your phone when you’re standing in line to pay for your weekly food shop? What about when you’re out to dinner with your significant other or your friends? Do you need to have your phone on your person, or even worse on the table in front of you? Nothing says ‘I wish I was doing something else, with other people’ like having your phone on the table at dinner, or at a meeting. And no, having it faced down doesn’t make it any better.
I realised I was guilty of this recently when I was spending time with my children. I don’t live with them, so the time I get to spend with them is precious. Yet I’d find myself scrolling through my phone when I was with them. Why? What could possibly be happening on Facebook that is more important than spending time with my children? Nothing. So now when I go to see them, my phone stays in the car.
Your face-to-face interactions and relationships are being damaged by your inability to be without your smartphone for more than a few hours. Leave it at home, or in the car.
Time To Dig Out The Flip Phones?
I’m not suggesting we all take hammers to our iPhones. Smartphones are without a doubt one of the greatest inventions of the modern age. But they are addictive. And anything that is addictive can be dangerous. The fact that some people will read this and call me insane for suggesting they turn off notifications shows just how much control our phones have over us. The average person checks their phone 110 times per day. Some of you may read that knowing full well that you’re well above that number. And you might be okay with that. But if you’ve ever wondered where your time has gone, look no further than the box of circuits and wires in your pocket, and ask yourself ‘Am I in control of my phone, or is my phone in control of me?’
Jon Peters is a 28-year-old writer who spends the entirety of December belting out Michael Bublé’s Christmas album. Thanks for reading! If you’d like to read more from me then you can get to my profile super quickly by clicking here.