I’m not sure I know anyone who will really advocate for being on a cellphone 24/7. Most of us know we should probably avoid scrolling through social media in bed and replying to work emails first thing in the morning. Those of us that do it sheepishly admit it, with a few excuses about how it helps us relax or how we have to get back to people asap. If you really think that works for you, fine, but for me? It sucked. It ruined my attention span, it messed with my sleep cycles, and it stole hours from me on the regular because I would lose track of time early in the morning.
So, I started using downtime. This setting allows me to control what apps are available to me when, and I’ve set it up so that for the first two hours I’m awake, the only apps that are available are Spotify, podcasts, texts, and calls. I’ll turn those off too if they get abused. I do genuinely fall back asleep if things stay too quiet right when I wake up, so I’ll ask Alexa to play a specific playlist or podcast, and she usually accesses where I am in it from my phone, thus why I leave my Spotify and podcast apps going. I’ll listen to it while I get ready and make myself some coffee or tea, then take Ink on a nice long walk if the weather allows. If not, I skip to the next part of my morning routine, curling up with a book (yes, an actual, physical book). If I’m up for it and it needs to be done, I’ll also knock out some housework during this time. I don’t actually sit down in front of a screen, whether it’s my phone or TV or laptop, until 8am.
Downtime is flexible, so if for some reason I absolutely need to access a certain app, I can set it to ignore downtime for 1 or 15 minutes, or for the rest of that day. This is unlikely, but good to know about for those of us who have brains that love to come up with disaster scenarios. Since I’ve started applying it daily, it’s made my life significantly easier and better.
Because I have a consistent morning routine that, by nature, cannot be derailed by me getting sucked into the online world, it’s easier to wake up and get things done that I want to do daily but have a hard time making a habit of. I’m actually getting through the books I enjoy reading quicker, enjoying my morning beverage without reheating it or re-icing it a dozen times, and taking my dog on consistently longer walks.
Other than these obvious perks to not getting sidetracked, my attention is infinitely better. Believe it or not, spending the first hour or two of the day flitting from app to app and post to post is not exactly great for our focus as the day goes on, especially as our groggy under-caffeinated brains wake up. It’s easier to zone in on both work and personal projects throughout the day if we put off app-related activities to later, even seemingly helpful ones like language learning apps or brain games.
I also have noticed a much better sleep and wake pattern. I get tired around the same time every night, usually around 10pm, and wake up before or at 6am almost every morning. Even though I haven’t been cutting out screens in the evenings, like many people recommend to get to sleep sooner and better, cutting them out in the mornings has also meant me getting sleepy earlier. I’m not sure if this has more to do with me being more physically active earlier in the day, thus wearing myself out more, or more to do with my focus helping me get more done and feeling more accomplished, thus making it easier for me to be okay with an earlier bedtime. We’ll see how it adjusts as the winter months mean shorter walks.
I’m not perfect at it, and it’s not a perfect system, but it’s been surprisingly helpful for increasing so much more than my productivity.Even if you just put it off by 10 or 15 minutes, you might be surprised how much better your focus is throughout the day.
Do you have set times to stay off your phone, or screens in general? How has it helped you?