The following is a guest post by Ryan Barton.
Last week, I built my phone a home.
It doesn’t have antenna bumpers, nor does it boast one of those fancy battery charging pads. Frankly, it’s not much to look at, but it serves its purpose. It’s a resting place; a small bowl.
In a society that markets a new phone as the best way to get back to life, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Drastic measures must be taken.
We need to unshackle ourselves. We need to remove the phone clip from our proverbial belt. We need to escape our smartphones.
And here’s how we’ll do it.
Escaping the norm
Before we explore five ways you can cut your smartphone’s leash, we need to recognize the difference between the norm and how you escape from the norm.
What’s your day like?
Do you spend it in front of the glare of a computer screen? Maybe on your feet all day in a retail environment?
It’s an elementary question, but don’t underestimate its significance.
Articulating the difference between what you do and how you escape from what you do dictates how you’ll declare your smartphone independence.
How do you escape?
It’s different for all of us.
Meals, sleep, time with your loved ones, quiet moments alone, reading, even exercise — they’re all ways we escape the norm.
So why do you let a simple device pull you from your escape?
If you’ve ever been in a productive working groove, then suddenly interrupted, you understand how difficult it can be to find that rhythm and focus a second time.
It’s the same with your escape. Once you allow yourself to be interrupted, it’s exponentially more difficult to fall back into your escape.
Now, instead of pleasure reading, you’re contemplating the latest email. Instead of enjoying a quiet dinner with your spouse, you’re wondering who’s texting you, what they want, and how the world will end if you don’t reply now! now! now!
When the ship’s sailed
Cruise industry giants practically give away empty staterooms as a sailing’s departure date approaches. They figure once once the ship sails, those empty staterooms don’t earn any onboard revenue — that opportunity is gone.
But, sell the rooms for cheap and suddenly you’ve got a few more passengers on a ship in the middle of the ocean spending money on alcohol, excursions, and keepsakes.
Similarly, once you deviate from your escape, that moment’s gone.
The interrupting phone calls, Twitter’s @ notifications, the temptation to check your email (yet again) — you allow them to pull you away from your escape. And suddenly, instead of being in a moment away from the norm, that experience — that moment — has passed and will never be regained.
5 ways to declare smartphone independence
For some of you, I fully understand your phone is your escape. It represents a portal away from reality and into an online world where suddenly, you’re important (I owe it to my followers! They need me!).
Even still, I urge you to consider one of these five steps:
- Leave it behind
- Remove the leash
- What are you gaining and what’s it worth?
- Separation of work and play
- Give it a home
There’s a mental checklist before walking out the door — keys, wallet, and phone. Misplace your phone and you’re suddenly clawing your way out of a panic attack. You’ve misplaced your “life,” your contacts, your “to do” list — they’re all missing.
But it’s a different feeling when you purposefully leave it behind; you’re in control, you pull updates when you want them, you don’t need your phone.
Next time you need to focus on your work, turn off your phone, eliminate any temptation to check it, and leave it in another room. Next time you need some fresh air to clear your mind, go on that nature walk without your phone.
Instead of dependence, you’ll soon realize the desire for more smartphone independence. You gotta have more of it. It’s freeing, it’s calm, it’s quiet.
Before you balk at the idea of leaving your phone behind in case of an emergency, let’s talk.
I’m not suggesting you ditch your phone completely. I’m recommending you spend more time with your head up. Your phone’s a tool, not a time suck.
So what’s tying you to it? What’s seducing you to take it out of your pocket every three minutes?
When I examined my own smartphone use, I spent a lot of time in wonderfully-distracting games and social networks. But that’s just it, they’re distractions, taking time away from my core focus. They didn’t feed my revenue stream. They were a waste of both time and battery.
I understand, your smartphone is important, you’re a business person, always on the go, you need to stay connected.
Great — find a network that doesn’t drop your call. Congratulations, you’re connected.
So what’d I do? I uninstalled Foursquare, the games, the mobile chat services and suddenly had less of a reason for a phone distraction.
Every time your phone’s not ringing and you’re still captivated by it, you’re seeking something — an answer to a trivial question, interaction with an online community, something to satisfy your short attention span. But at what cost?
Before picking up your phone again, weigh your decision carefully. Because that simple action of diverting your attention carries more impact than you might realize.
Over on his blog, Mark Schaefer asked a great question— is your smartphone more important than the person sitting across from you?
What a great visual of our rude behavior. Who’s more important? A client or your spouse? A mystery Twitter follower or your kid?
If you’re like me, a growing inbox is a daunting challenge. But checking your mobile email every three minutes isn’t the answer to your growing inbox.
Here’s your challenge: check your email twice a day — this is something that Tim Ferriss first recommended — first a bit before Noon, then again around 4:00 PM.
Now, of all those emails, how many were of the absolutely, must, have to answer right now, variety?
I experimented with this approach myself and found just two emails in a week’s time that needed to be answered immediately. Sure, there were important emails in there, a couple new business opportunities, but nothing that was more important than spending time with my family or friends.
And this realization changed the way I use my smartphone — and at the same time, made me significantly more productive, focused, and more respectful with the people I’m with.
With this new information, I’m no longer tied to my phone to answer email — there’s no need for my immediate response. There will always be something else to do. But seldom is it so important that you need to drop everything else.
It’s far too easy to justify answering your phone just this once, maybe a quick text before the appetizers arrive, or responding to an email during the commercial break.
But you’re stronger than that. You hold the power over your phone. Commit to who’s more important in your life and put your phone aside.
In my book, Smart Marketing I write about eliminating obstacles between you and your customer’s purchase. Remove barriers to information requests, make it easier to checkout, empower your customers to share their purchase with their community.
And it’s a similar approach to using your smartphone — eliminate any temptation that would cause you to become dependent on your smartphone — because sometimes, our own self will just isn’t strong enough.
Julien makes a strong case for using two devices — one being a weekend phone that lacks anything extra. Now, you have no choice; there’s no self will battle to be waged.
Or consider John’s Phone — the perfect weekend phone — a device that comes with a physical address book, a pen, and lets you make a call, that’s it. No widgets, no apps, just a phone. Maybe that’s why the battery lasts three weeks?
It’s almost shocking isn’t it? We’ve come to the point where, as a society, we’ve become so dependent on our devices we’re seeing new technology designed to escape the new technology.
Let’s circle back to the beginning of this post — I gave my phone a home; a small bowl in the kitchen.
It has nothing to do with charging the battery, nor is it the best place in the house for reception.
When my wife and I sit down for a meal, putting my phone in its home is part of setting the table. Grab the napkins, the plates, the condiments, light a candle or two, turn on some Linda Rondstadt, and put the phone in its home.
When it’s in its home, I’m not accepting calls, I’m not breaking away to respond to a text message, I’m not monitoring the latest Twitter updates, and I’m not refreshing my email inbox.
Without saying a word, that action tells my wife I respect and value my time with her more than anything or anybody attached to that little device — she has my undivided attention.
This isn’t just about meals and time with your spouse though; your own independence is equally important.
If you’re like me, your smartphone is a fixture on your nightstand just as much as a lamp or a book. But when that’s the case, your morning ritual is centered around your phone.
Press “Snooze,” roll over, throw your alarm clock against the wall, check your email while still in bed, take a shower, lather, rinse, dry off just enough to check your phone yet again, and repeat.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, your phone is your alarm clock. Rubbish. Grow up you big businessperson and pony up five bucks for a proper alarm clock so your phone can have a home of its own.
Create a new morning ritual — wake-up and read, make some breakfast for your spouse, or get out and exercise.
Smartphone independence and new technology
There’s no denying it — it’s amazing to consider the potential of new smartphone technologies — its apps, its design, its aesthetic lure.
And yet, it’s important to remember that just because your smartphone is capable of A, B, and C, you don’t need to always use it.
Take back your independence from your smartphone. Physically take control — give your device a home, actually remove the battery, show your phone who’s the boss.
I know all too well how difficult it may be for a smartphone addict to consider these recommendations. So try out one at a time, nobody’s asking you to quit cold turkey.
Remember who’s real and breathing, who has emotion and cares for you, and who’s more important. Now, commit to make them a priority. Your phone can wait.
Ryan Barton is the author of the “Smart Marketing” and he writes at The Smart Marketing Blog for Small Business Success; you can follow him on Twitter, where he shares entirely too much information. He wrote “Smart Marketing” with the intent that small businesses would glean insightful information and tangible marketing strategies so they too, could compete competitively with industry giants.