In our age of technology overuse, many people feel tethered to their smartphones and believe that they “should” reduce their usage — but they aren’t cognizant as to “why” it’s important for them to do so.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, researchers suggest focusing on the driving force behind your desire to reduce time spent on your smartphone. By reflecting on your “why,” you can work from the power of your motivations and identify the most effective strategies for success.
Here are four reasons you might want to reduce your smartphone usage — and specifically tailored advice for each.
1. You want stronger relationships
Sorry, Instagram — social media isn’t cutting it for cultivating deep relationships. Even though it may feel like catching up on the latest news and photos from your friends counts as being social, there’s a huge difference between digital interaction and face-to-face communication. In the study discussed in the Harvard Business Review article, 20 percent of participants wanted to avoid losing affection of loved ones from their smartphone habits, and 25 percent wanted to avoid seeming rude by being interrupted or distracted by their device.
The key strategy that proved most useful to participants in the study was using guidelines to determine when you can and cannot use smartphones. For example, banning phones from the dinner table sets a family-wide expectations for how to act. Participants also noted that turning off notifications made them feel more in control of their smartphones.
2. You want to excel in your job
If you want to climb the career ladder, unplugging may be the answer. 25 percent of the study’s participants identified “improving work or home role performance” as their primary reason for wanting to lessen smartphone usage. Smartphones are one of the greatest distractions that keep us from focusing, which hinders our ability to succeed at work.
Similar to how you can limit smartphones for the sake of relationships, HBR suggests putting your phone somewhere it isn’t visible while you’re working. They also propose silencing your phone during meetings and not activating cellular data to silence all the pings and buzzes.
3. You want to sleep better
It’s official — phones are sleep’s worst enemy. By using phones before sleeping, we mess with circadian rhythms, melatonin levels, and even the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. There’s nothing more important than getting a solid night’s rest, and there’s no easier way to do so than by reducing smartphone usage.
The easiest and most effective way to improve sleep is by sleeping with your phone outside your bedroom (or tucking in your phone bed every night, Arianna Huffington style!) That way, you don’t check it before bed, aren’t tempted to check it if you wake in the night, and avoid the cortisol spike that happens when you check your phone first thing after you wake up. Your body will thank you.
4. You want to be more mindful
Can you remember the last time you sat somewhere alone — just sat — and observed your surroundings? Many people can’t. Usually, when we sit alone, we use our smartphones to appear busy or stoke boredom. Journalist Wayne Curtis calls these observably hyperconnected people “the digital dead, shuffling slowly, their eyes affixed to a small screen in their hands.” However, there’s so much value to taking note of your surroundings and simply existing. There’s power in being unapologetically present.
If becoming a more mindful person is your reason for wanting to unplug, challenge yourself to spend downtime observing your surroundings and taking in nature, whether on your commute home or waiting for a friend at a restaurant. In her book Mindful London, Tessa Watt suggests, “At the traffic crossing, instead of being impatient for the green man, appreciate how the red man gives us a chance to stop, breathe and look around.”
With a meaningful purpose in mind, it is much more likely that you will follow through with your promise to yourself.
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