Your Phone Should Be Like Your Toothbrush

Here's why and how to make it so

If your phone was more like your toothbrush, your life would be a lot better.

Your toothbrush is the greatest tool of all time. You only use it when you’re supposed to for as long as you need to and then let it go. That’s what the best tools do:

They put you in control at all times, even when you’re not using them.

Therefore, all great tools are optimized for mindfulness. They help you preserve time, attention, and energy. To do this, a great tool must have three properties:

  1. It only triggers you when you actually benefit from using it.

  2. It requires as little of your time as possible once you pick it up.

  3. It prompts you to let go of it as soon as you’re done.

Your phone does none of these and that’s why it’s a lousy tool at best. 24/7 it calls for your attention and, once it has it, never lets go.

People now spend 2.5 hours on their phones, daily. That’s 17.5 hours a week and, unless you work part-time at a call center, that’s way too much.

There are a lot of things you can do to bring these three properties to your phone and turn it into a mindfulness enhancer rather than a life-shortening distraction device, but here are the big three that helped me the most:

  1. Disable almost all notifications. The only time your phone should tell you “hey, come check me!” is when it matters. That means for calls, important calendar appointments, and whatever might be time-sensitive. Most things aren’t.

  2. Kill vibration. Have you noticed vibration has become almost indistinguishable from an actual ring? You’re not fooling anyone with that, except yourself. Turn it off for true silence. This way, you are in charge when you pick it up.

  3. Hide your phone from view. When you’re talking, working, walking, or enjoying life in any of its many forms, you don’t need a visual cue nagging you. You need your attention and you need all of it. Keep your phone in your bag, hide it behind your screen, or leave it at home altogether. If it’s not there, you won’t miss it.

Modern phones are like the discovery of fire: Before we knew it, we had more power in our hands than we ever could handle. But, unlike fire, we invented smartphones.

It’s our job to show them their place before we get burned.

-Nik


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