I pull up to the curb outside my daughter’s school to drop her off at kindergarten and watch while she walks up to the door. If we’re early — and we’re usually not — I’ve got a minute or so to kill while she waits outside her classroom’s exterior door. Without putting much thought into it, I pull out my phone and check my email messages. When I get home, I put my toddler down from a nap then head down to tidy the kitchen. I check Instagram for updates while I load the dishwasher. (Hey, I can do most tasks with just one hand — perk of being a mom). Later, while I wait in the carpool line at school, I check my blog feed. Then I scroll through Pinterest while cooking dinner because I’m looking for a recipe.
I tell myself this is multitasking at it’s best. But truthfully, it isn’t. Some of it is maximizing time; the rest of it is wasting time. I reflexively grab my phone whenever I have a spare minute. Going upstairs to vacuum the kids’ rooms? I’ll grab my phone … just in case.
I love that I can use my smartphone to order that finally back-in-stock Elsa dress while I’m at the playground with my kids. I hate that eight clicks later, I’m reading random comments on a stranger’s blog post about how they paid down $36,000 of debt in six months. I justify my behavior to myself because hey, it’s not like I’m checking Facebook all day. But the truth is I don’t want my kids to remember me as the mom that had her phone in her hand — or even her pocket — all day long. Here are a five tips I’ve brainstormed to help me dial back my cell phone time:
1. Make it count
I like to tell myself that I’m not spending much time online every day. But a few minutes here and there add up quickly. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at your phone bill — the data usage might surprise you. Instead of spreading my surfing throughout the day, I’m going to set aside a reasonable amount of time to devote to all things online.
2. Make a list
With three little kids jabbering my way all day, my thoughts feel very scattered most days. This means I often remember things I need to do at inconvenient times — usually as soon as I’ve walked away from my desk for the day. Instead of grabbing my phone every time I remember that I need to pay a bill or check a deadline or research hotels for an upcoming vacation, I add those tasks to a running (paper!) list of things to do online. Then I can knock them out all at once.
3. Wear a watch
This is a no-brainer, but I often tote my phone in my pocket so I can easily check the time. I’m going to turn my ringer on high, put my phone in my giant diaper bag — surely there is room in there for one more item — and wear a watch. When I need to check the time, it’s as simple as a flick of a wrist. No cell phone required.
4. Turn off non-essential alerts
There is nothing more annoying that hearing the ping of an incoming message only to discover it’s a message from the Minion Rush app. Save yourself precious minutes by disabling any non-essential alerts. When you really need to focus on that task at hand, or maybe during certain times of the day, turn off all alerts on your phone. It makes it much easier to resist the siren call of a text message or that tantalizing email icon.
5. Log out
If you really need help stepping away from screen time, consider logging out of your most frequently used apps after each use. That way, instead of effortlessly pressing a button and instantly seeing your Twitter feed, you go through the work of entering a username and password. It will likely make you think twice before you tap that icon.