How to set up boundaries with your smartphone
If you are like most people, there’s a good chance you own a smartphone. In fact, I’m willing to bet you are reading the text appearing before you on one right now.
How do I know this? Well, it’s not because I’m psychic. Instead, it’s because a survey conducted by the highly regarded Pew Research Center revealed that nearly 77% of all Americans own some type of smart device.
While the proliferation of wireless phones has helped us to remain more connected, there’s an argument to be made that perhaps we’ve become too connected.
No more waiting until office hours for the boss to tell us something. No more secluded vacations. All of us can now reach one another at any time, from anywhere.
Let’s be honest, these digital suckers have infiltrated almost every aspect of lives; from time at the gym to dinner with friends.
Shoot, they’ve even managed to worm their way into sexy time. If you’ve ever had your phone chime during a hookup, you know exactly what I mean.
Given how smartphones have woven themselves into the fabric of daily life, is there any way to strike a balance? The answer is yes but it will require that you set up strong boundaries.
What follows are seven ways to have a healthier relationship with your smartphone. Some of these suggestions might seem like common sense. Others may make you pause and think. Read them all and apply what feels right.
1. Create awareness around usage
The first step in establishing a healthier relationship with your smartphone is to create awareness around usage.
An effective way to do this is to ask yourself the following: Do I need to check this right now?
The answer may very well be: yes. But in most situations, it will probably be: no. The hard truth is most of us have become addicted to our phones like crack cocaine.
And I’m not just making that up.
Recent scientific research suggests that too many of us have become dependent on our phones in much the same way addicts become hooked on substances. In turn, this leads to a condition called phoneliness.
By creating awareness around how much you interact with your device, you’ll be in a stronger position to enact healthy boundaries.
2. Make your bedroom a phone-free zone
Your bedroom (and particularly your bed) should be thought of as a sacred place for renewal. But each time you bring your phone with you into this space, you inject toxicity into the environment.
Now think about this for a minute and it will make sense. When you place your smartphone on your nightstand, you are inviting your boss, family, friends, and co-workers into your bed.
Do you really want these people there?
Ideally, your bedroom should be a place for sleeping and sex. Do yourself a favor and banish your phone to some other location.
Don’t con yourself into thinking, “But I need my phone as an alarm clock.” While this may very well be true, it’s also just as true that you (probably) won’t be able to resist the temptation to “check” when it’s near.
As an alternative, consider getting a cheap digital alarm clock. Believe it or not, they still make them.
3. Schedule nightly interaction time
One of the most rewarding things about smartphones is their ability to let us interact with others. But without boundaries, this benefit can morph into the unhealthy.
Here, I am talking about timewasting activities like spending hours on social media when your goal was to work on a task, like attending to your monthly bills or cleaning out the bathroom.
One healthy option to scheduling a nightly timeslot dedicated to smartphone use. An example might be deciding to jump onto your device from 7 pm – 8 pm. Once that hour is up, your phone gets turned off.
The trick with this suggestion is to create a boundary that is realistic. FYI: it may take practice to figure out a time that works best. After all, learning is an experiential process that’s often influenced by a trial and error.
4. Turn it off for certain events
Nowadays, it’s a good idea to have your phone with you when out and about. There’s something to be said about knowing you can call for help should an emergency arise.
That said, just because you have your phone with you doesn’t mean it must be on. Make sense?
Examples include powering down your phone when you are on a date or during family events. Other examples include activities like hiking or visiting an art gallery.
Obviously, each situation is different. A good question to ask yourself as part of this step is: Do I need my phone to be on right now?
5. Consider a social media detox
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be excellent conduits of communication. They allow you to learn what’s going on in the world and talk about issues you care about.
The problem is they can also become horribly addictive, acting like time sponges that soak up hours of daily life.
Rather than doing something drastic, like deleting your social media apps, a more realistic solution might be to go on a social media detox.
To accomplish this, simply decide on a period of time where you will take a break from apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. The amount of time is up to you. For some folks, a week works. For others, 30-days makes more sense.
Whatever you decide, it helps to let people know you are taking time away. Once the break begins, delete the apps from your phone. Remember, you can always reinstall upon return.
6. Get rid of the notifications
“Tom Smith just sent you a friend request” and “Liked by Wendy Jones” are examples of the many notifications that can pop up on your phone throughout the day.
Do yourself a huge favor – turn notifications off.
Honestly, do you really need to know these things in real time? Between the chimes and flashing banners, doesn’t the whole thing drive you nuts?
Let’s be real – notifications are invasive. Moreover, they are designed to get you hooked on an app to increase interaction.
Take a few minutes and conduct an audit. Decide which notifications are necessary and which are not. I’m willing to bet the vast majority aren’t needed.
7. Remove apps you aren’t using
The final tip is to swipe through your phone’s screen and assess the different apps. Ask yourself how many you truly use or need. Once accomplished, you can then begin the process of deletion.
By having fewer apps on your device, the less updating you’ll have to do. Moreover, you’ll be able to access frequently used ones quicker.
The end result is more efficient use of your time – including work tasks.
Bringing It All Together
Smartphones have become an appendage for most of us. For all of the wonderful things they do, these electronic devices can also act as time bandits.
Hopefully, the tips shared here will help you to have a healthier relationship with your smartphone so that you can go about the business of living life.
What are some ways you have built healthy boundaries around your smartphone? Please share in the comments.