Trying to Focus

15 August 2017

Three weeks ago, I disabled Safari on my iPhone, took off my Apple Watch, and turned off almost all of my notifications.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the distracting nature of technology — especially smart phones. Having access to all of the information in the world in your pocket at all times is both daunting and distracting; especially when there is a world just a few inches in any direction of that 5 inch screen. So, I decided to make a few changes.

Credit: Unsplash, Tom the Photographer

Taking off my Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is a fantastic tool and I absolutely love it, but it feeds my addiction to notifications, so it had to go (for now). When I had my Apple Watch, my wrist buzzed a few times an hour with random notifications that would take me out of the moment. Whether I responded to them or not, I always felt like I had to at least look at them, which is distracting to me and what I’m working on, not to mention rude to anyone I’m with.

So, I switched to a normal watch that doesn’t spring to life with weather and calendar data every time I raise my wrist, and I think I’m happier and less stressed for it. That was a good start, but I wanted to take the experiment further.

Removing the Browser

The web browser is a quick way to get sucked into the phone for hours. Browsing articles, looking up random questions and curiosities, checking anything and everything — it’s a black hole of information. So, I disabled it.

Without a web browser, I have regained control over what my phone can do by way of the apps I install. If I don’t have the app for it, my phone can’t easily do it. This way, instead of wasting time on the web or researching the definitive answer to a random argument with a friend, I’m able to be present and let my phone stay in my pocket. If I really want to know the answer, I’ll write it down in my notebook and look it up later.

It’s around this time that many of my friends asked why I went to such lengths to lock down my phone rather than just using some self-discipline. Aside from the fact that it would take about 3 taps to re-enable the browser if I really wanted to, I would rather use my limited amount of self-control towards something I cannot simply turn off in settings. I believe if technology can control something for you, there is no reason to try to control it yourself.

A Peaceful Lack of Notifications

In combination with my Apple Watch and browser experiment, I shut off notifications for almost all of my apps. I left notifications on just for my messaging apps, as I usually care when people are trying to contact me directly. This way, I’m not surprised with random notifications with information I don’t need, and I can always check the app itself to see if anything is new.

Similarly, now if my phone buzzes, there is more importance to it as it is something that I have deemed important enough to me to interrupt what I’m doing.

Technology as a Tool, not a Dictator

Before locking down my phone, it ruled my life. Any notification, message, or sound would take me out of whatever I was doing and drag me into a never-ending abyss of content and things to do. This was not healthy.

Now, if I want to look something up, or post something, I can, but very few things pull me into my phone anymore. It is much more like a tool to help improve my life rather than try to control it.

What’s Next

I don’t know how long this will last, maybe I’ll re-enable Safari tomorrow, or maybe I’ll go in the opposite direction and delete social media from my phone. Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with technology and it’s impact on life, and I intend to keep doing so.