I admit it. I made this meme … on the toilet. In this age of mindful eating, mindful parenting, mindful business, mindful everything, how could I sink so low? Read and weep. (Spoiler: there’s a happy end.)
Until recently I had this outdated hand-me-down phone. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt used the same model to stay in touch with their alien ancestors. Half of the apps did not work. Half of the sites did not load. It only had wifi. Perfect!
I used the old thing primarily to text my wife or set reminders. (I have no social life.) But some persistent thoughts kept nagging at me. They whispered:
- With a proper smartphone you could leave your camera, MP3-player and notebook at home.
- You’d take more pictures again.
- You’d always have a GPS with you, even on your bicycle.
- You could Skype or listen to TED-talks while cleaning the house.
- You could update your calendar and Trello wherever you go.
- You’d finally join the 21st century.
I ignored these arguments for years, because I saw how people around me were being bossed around by their phones’ bleeps and peeps from morning till evening. It’s worse than having children.
But I’d join them eventually.
I was addicted the moment I sat down and browsed the Play Store. After day one I had to remove Facebook ASAP before my IQ dropped irreversibly. But Coach.me and Instagram already had their hooks too deep in my mind, even though I had disabled all distracting sounds and push notifications.
Sure it’s fun that I was taking more pics again. The phone fits more comfortably in my pocket than any camera ever did, so I take it everywhere.
However, this is how I used to take pics:
- Take camera out of manly bag (if I had it with me)
- Take camera out of case
- Turn camera on
- Take picture
With Instagram, this became:
- Take phone out of pants
- Unlock phone
- Tap camera app
- Take picture
- Tap picture to tap share
- Tap Instagram
- Crop picture
- Adjust brightness and contrast
- Spend minutes going back and forth between filters
- Think of witty caption
- Think of hashtags
- Decide which social media to share on
- Check who used the same hashtags
- Get lost on instagram commenting and liking
- Check if anyone responded to my pic
- Repeat steps 14 and 15 compulsively
- Finally put phone away
- Feel internal pull to repeat steps 14 and 15 compulsively
And that’s just 1 app!
It was the same with Facebook, Twitter, Coach.me, WordPress… Each one demanded my attention and chipped away at my precious time. Enough!
I didn’t want to go back to my pharaoh phone, so I sought a middle way.
Batchman to the rescue
I happen to be the ubernerd of a small company. My colleagues routinely turn to me when their computer says “no“ or when a client has trouble with our products. In the past this meant my real work was constantly getting interrupted. It was awful! Then I turned it around with the “batch it crazy” technique.
Now I work at home 4 days out of 5. In the morning I begin with my most important tasks. I don’t let anything interfere until 11 AM. Then I take an hour to check e-mails and social media in case any colleagues or clients need me. Once a week I’m at the office to help where I can.
This batching approach really pays off. So I decided to apply the same principle to my smartphone abuse.
After testing some apps (the irony!) I find Stay Focused quite helpful and easy. I’ve set it to block attention hogs like Instagram if I use them more than 10 minutes a day.
Now I’m back to taking pics without posting them online immediately. I batch all the filtering, uploading, captioning, hashtagging and whatnot into 10 minutes in the evening or during lunch break.
So what exactly is the “batch it crazy” technique?
- Identify what scatters your attention.
(troubleshooting? social media? phone calls? recurring worries?)
- Schedule a recurring time slot for it.
(an hour a day? one day a week?)
- Batch it into the time slot, instead of letting it distract you many times a day.
How can you apply it?