I’ve been trying to spend less time aimlessly bouncing between social media apps while using my phone.
The problem I’ve had in the past is that every time I’ve tried to detox, I’ve relied on discipline to keep me from sliding back to subconscious scrolling.
There is one trick which I’ve implemented that has had a huge lasting impact;
Delete everything non-essential from your phone’s homepage.
And I mean everything.
Keep your calendar, important emergency contacts, and maps if you use it a lot.
The rest should remain buried beneath the search function of your phone.
By forcing yourself to use the search function on your phone to type in the name of the app you’re trying to open, you’re far more likely to be making conscious decisions about what you’re doing on your phone.
This seems counter intuitive at first. Why would you strip away functionality from your phone’s perfectly good user interface?
Aren’t I wasting time searching every time I need to use an app?
And it’s true. It takes an extra five seconds or so to open Instagram, every single time. But they aren’t wasted.
These five seconds act as a barrier which protects your attention.
Five seconds is enough time to consider what your purpose for opening an app is; is there a specific reason I’m doing this, or am I burning time while avoiding another task?
It’s a buffer, a tool to help you make active choices about how you spend your time.
If this sounds like too much hasstle, try installing a screentime tracker like Flipd.
I was resistant too. But after coming face to face with the time I spent across these apps each day, five seconds stopped sounding so bad.
They tend to be fun, nieche activities involving some form of social element. Our hobbies recharge us – in part because it doesn’t matter if we’re bad at them.
Pursuits are like hobbies, except for the fact that gradual improvement is at the core of our enjoyment of them.
Going bowling with your friends for a laugh once a fortnight is a hobby. After a few months, perhaps you’re a better bowler than average. Some nights you might even get lucky and put together an impressive score. But the vast majority of your time bowling would still be considered leisure time.
If you were treating bowling as a pursuit, while you might still have the same fun fortnightly game with your friends, the majority of the time you spent thinking about bowling would revolve around the question;
How can I be better?
You’d find time to practice on your technique, you’d probably invest in your own ball and shoes and you’d study footage of professional bowlers with awe.
You’d be obsessed with progressing and improving, because becoming a better bowler is the fun part of pursuing bowling.
All pursuits require the processing of feedback in order to innovate our approach to the activity.
In bowling, the feedback is clear; you either knocked the pins over or you didn’t.
Until you can score five perfect games in a row, there’s technique to work on.
When you find a pursuit you’re passionate about, there is an intense gratification which sprouts from putting in the work to improve. You bowl to get better at the bowling.
The fortnightly hobbyist has no interest in the intensity or focus required to pursue bowling.
When bowling is a hobby, the fun is showing up. The fun is the bowling.
When it’s a pursuit, the fun is the result of consistently showing up. The fun is the bowling because it’s making you better at the bowling.
Idenfying these patterns in the things you love to do and making clear decisions about what you’re willing to suck at is can liberating and quite valuable.
Pursuits demand tenacity and a refusal to fail. They’re high stakes and hard work, but far more gratifying tham hobbies long term. Pursuits are a commitment to growth.
Hobbies provide a special kind of short term satisfaction which we all crave. They’re low stakes and relaxing. Hobbies are the time where we can give ourselves permission to fail. The results don’t matter because taking part in the activity is it’s own result.
We should all have both hobbies and pursuits, but we should also know the difference.
Making the bed is usually the last thing on my mind in the morning.
If I’m not rushing to the gym, I’m usually calculating how long it will take to get changed and brush my teeth as I try to figure out whether or not I have enough time to scoff breakfast before leaving the house.
Obviously, this is far from an ideal morning routine.
(I’m working on it)
We should make our beds in the morning not just because it feels better to come home to at the end of the day, but because the feeling of accomplishment associated is one of the easiest ways to set yourself up for a productive morning; which can snowball all the way throughout your day.
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
Making your bed is a low hanging fruit; you can enjoy significant benefit despite the fact it takes next to no time or energy.
When we’re able to build habits around these low hanging fruit, the little effort it does take to accomplish them reduces even further. So much so, that eventually you won’t even have to think about them.
Making your bed after you wake up should be as intuitive as washing your hands after you use the bathroom; if it’s not completely automatic, something is probably wrong.
Build habits around the small things you can do which provide the largest benefits, and you’ll be constantly generating your own wellbeing.
What’s your low hanging fruit?
Have you always kind of wanted to meditate, but never got around to it?
Ever wanted to exercise more often, but just couldn’t seem to muster the motivation?
Want to be a writer, but never find the time to write?
Treat yourself like a professional, and do the work. Then keep doing the work until it doesn’t feel like work anymore.
These things take ten minutes out of your morning. Unless you’re a parent to young children, (in which case, why are you even here? Go get some rest) there is really no excuse.
A doctor washes her hands before every surgery whether her hands are dirty or not.
It’s not something she thinks about doing, it’s something she does.
That’s what a professional does.
I don’t want an authentic surgeon who says, “I don’t really feel like doing knee surgery today.” I want a professional who shows up whatever they feel like.
We have to hold ourselves accountable to building these habits, especially around the things we care about.
I don’t yet make my bed every morning, but I will. Because I care about having good days.
I didn’t used to write every day, now I do. Because I care about my practice.
This stuff is simple, but far from easy. The ball is in your court.
Don’t ever stop striving to be a work in progress.
When we ruminate too intently on the pains our future might hold, we experience a portion of that pain in advance.
People with empathy internalise the pain of others when they witness suffering. It helps us to connect, to understand one another, and to care for eachother.
When making a decision, we usually consider the effect it might have on others. In doing so, we are essentially imagining future versions of the people our decisions may effect, allowing us to empathetically consider the potential outcomes of our actions.
We are so good at this that we usually do it intuitively.
I don’t take an online yodeling class at 1:30am because I can imagine that my neighbours (and their baby) might find it difficult to sleep in the presence of such glorious sound.
Unfortunately, there is a little glitch in this otherwise wonderfully human system; we can’t help but also imagine ourselves as a future person. We possess an inescapable and often rather concerning future self.
Anxiety is the pain we absorb while empathising with our future selves.
Harbouring a bit of this pain is sensible, but too much acts like poison.
We consider people ‘anxious’ when the pain they are experiencing in advance is disproportionate to the actual risks their furute presents.
“There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
Your anxiety is as useful as it is actionable.
If you can’t do anything to address a concern, there is zero gain in accepting preliminary pain on your future self’s behalf.
You’ll have to deal with it when your future self arrives at the worrying destination, so what sense is there in experiencing the pain twice?
Getting stuck empathising with future you is dangerous because this process feeds upons itself.
Once painful worrying becomes a habit, you might find yourself worrying about the worrying.
All of a sudden, your introspective empathy has turned toxic, and you’re so caught up inside yourself that you can barely muster the energy to look out.
If you have long term bad habits, the best thing you can do for yourself and those you care about is to replace them with good ones.
Habits are the things you do which make you, you.
Sometimes people get habits confused with goals, or with jobs.
‘I’m going to write every day until I’ve written my book,’ is not a habit.
‘I’m going to write everyday,’ is a habit.
Any habit with an end date is not a habit.
Goals get accomplished when your long term habits are good ones. Good habits put you in the best position to do good work, and good work leads to accomplishing big goals.
Bad habits provide short term relief and stunt long term progress. They get in your way.
Identify your bad habits and turn them into good ones.
Mine worst habit at the moment is c(ocaine)reating mess when I’m stressed, so I’m trying to turn tidying up into something I do to relieve stress.
It’s going to be hard work forcing myself to do it, and even harder work to find joy in it.
But it’ll only be hard for another week or three, then I’ll be dusting for the hell of it.
Your brain is as malleable as you allow it to be. Grab it like a ball of play-dough and get to work.
If you’re still having trouble, harness the power of accountability. Tell ten people that you’re going to change, and you probably will.
If ten isn’t enough, tell more and more people until the thought of letting the all down, admitting defeat and telling them you’ve failed is so exhausting that you might as well just do the work and make the change.