By Marko Sipka, LCPC
Technology is undoubtedly an essential part of modern life. So much so that it is hard for me to imagine going about my daily life without relying on my smartphone. In this sense, it would seem the smartphone has become much more than just a tool to make life easier. It has converged all of life’s different areas into one ever present device. We are continuously inundated with work texts, work emails, personal texts, personal emails, social media alerts, etc. all requiring our attention. We often sift through these notifications without much thought, but how often do we take the time to think about our relationship with our smartphones?
With technology advancing at such a rapid pace, it can seem like we are trying to keep up instead of making deliberate choices about its place in our lives. I often talk to patients about setting boundaries with people in their lives, but it is becoming more common to also talk about setting boundaries with our smartphones. Setting boundaries with technology can be a form of self-care that helps us avoid feeling scattered and distracted.
Below I have included a few ideas that have come up in my work with patients. While this list is not exhaustive, it may help you start to rethink your relationship with your smartphone or other devices.
Compartmentalize notifications – Have a plan about when you are going to address each notification category throughout the day. For example, you may decide not to respond to any personal notifications during work hours. This would mean that outside of your lunch hour or an emergency, you would not respond to personal texts or emails until after work. This strategy can help you be fully present with each task throughout your work day. Likewise, you may decide not to check your work notifications after work hours in order to be more present with your friends and loved ones.
Set start and end times – It is far too easy to be in front of a screen from morning until night. Most of us check our phones first thing in the morning and fall asleep scrolling through our favorite sites. Think about spending time with yourself in the morning device-free, giving yourself a few moments of peace before you are swamped with new notifications. It might also be helpful to set a time in the evening when you put your phone away and out of reach. This might mean leaving it in another room on silent or asking your partner to put it away. This step can help you find a sense of closure for the day and begin to wind down for sleep.
Reduce clutter – Sometimes I cannot believe how many apps I have collected on my smartphone. Companies and websites have incentivized us to use their apps rather than just their websites in order to customize our individual experience. Ask yourself, how often have you found an app on page four of app icons that you haven’t used in months or even years. Maybe less is more. Eliminate those apps that you hardly ever use in order to reduce notifications, and put you back in the driver’s seat.
It is still possible to enjoy the convenience a smartphone provides while setting healthy boundaries with technology. After all, this year more than ever, smartphones and other connective technology have helped us stay in touch with our friends and loved ones at a safe distance. As with most changes we want to make in the pursuit of self-improvement or balance, it is best to take it one small step at a time. Making small changes can make a big difference and help you start to think about your smartphone use differently.
If you would like to discuss ways to improve your overall well-being, please feel free to reach out to us to speak to a therapist at Info@EncirclePsych.com or 312-371-5680. Or, please feel free to reach out to me directly at Marko.Sipka@EncirclePsych.com or 312-883-8872.