It’s Monday, and I want you to answer a question for me honestly: Did you check your work emails last night? Don’t look down at your shoes. You know you did it. Sunday night has become the new Monday morning, a time to go through messages on your phone, do a little light paperwork and get a start on the week.
You probably feel a little guilty and ashamed about it. I know I generally did when I found myself answering emails on a Sunday. Yet I still do it. I also found myself doing it after hours on weeknights, on Fridays and Saturdays, and on holidays and vacations.
And You Want To Know The Worst Part About It?
No one actually asked me to do it. People are reasonable, and I can credibly say that no one writing me on a Sunday afternoon really expected a reply that minute. They wrote me for the same reason I answered: We were both addicted to our smartphones and had a misplaced need to be constantly busy.
This is no way to live. It’s a dystopian nightmare in which devices that are supposed to make our lives easier and better actually make them worse. And don’t even get me started on social media. Mark Zuckerberg quite literally destroyed human civilization with Facebook. We’re now living in the new Dark Ages.
At any rate, my beat is income investing. I help my readers find a respectable stream of income in a low-yield world. But all the money in the world is meaningless if you’re too plugged in to enjoy it.
So, today we’re going to do something a little different. I’m going to help you get your life back.
I know you’re not going to get rid of your smartphone. That Pandora’s Box is open and there’s no closing it again. But we can at least claw back a little bit of our pre-smartphone humanity.
Turn Off Email Notifications
Having access to your email is great. If you’re sitting in a doctor’s office or airport, why not get a little work done?
But do you really need your phone to buzz every time a group email about the office pizza party hits your inbox?
No, you really don’t. And this is why you should turn off the notification settings. All of those pizza party updates can build up in your inbox, and when it’s convenient you can sort through them. (And by sort through them, I mean delete them all in one swoop). The important thing is that you won’t be interrupted by your phone every 45 seconds.
I know what you’re thinking… What if there is an emergency?
I’d argue that there is no such thing as an emergency email. If it is important enough, they can call you. They have your number.
Follow my lead here. I turned off all notifications on my phone except for incoming phone calls, text messages, and Uber. (I need to know if my cab is waiting for me…) And I’m considering turning off text message notifications. My colleagues know that they can always call me if something is truly urgent or time sensitive. I’m available when they need me, even if it’s after hours. They just have to call me.
Literally everything is turned off. My phone never buzzes to tell me there is an exciting new show on Netflix or that my Amazon.com package just left the warehouse. And after a week of this, I found I stopped hating my smartphone and actually began to view it as a useful tool again.
Delete Social Media Apps
I deleted virtually all social media years ago. I had a moment of truth when I looked down at my watch and realized I had just wasted two hours of a would-have-been productive day looking at pictures of fat people I went to high school with. I barely knew them in high school, before they let themselves go. So why did I just waste two hours of my life looking at photos of their trip to Cancun?
Frankly, I didn’t like the kind of person that social media made me become. Reading other people’s political rants made me miserable.
So, I pulled the plug on all of it. I have no Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat accounts. And I can assure you that I haven’t missed anything. You don’t “have to” have social media accounts. You really can walk away from it all.
If you’re not ready to take that leap, you can at least take a preliminary step. Delete the apps from your phone. If you have to log in to Facebook on your computer, you’re going to spend a lot less time looking at cat photos than if you have the app in your pocket at all times.
I recommend you delete your accounts altogether and that you storm Facebook’s headquarters like the Bastille. But even taking the baby step of removing the apps from your phone will make you happier. Countless studies have linked social media to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a host of other mental health problems. The less of it you have in your life, the better.
No Phones At The Table
We don’t have a lot of rules in my house. If I’m to be honest, I’m really a softy. There is one rule, however, that I enforce with an iron fist: no phones at the dinner table.
When we sit at the table as a family, the phones have to go away. I’m a Nazi about it. The phones have to be in a different room while we eat.
As much as I’d love to go full retrograde Luddite and banish all smartphones from my household, I know that’s not happening. But we have to have standards or we’re no better than animals. So, no phones at the dinner table. Period.
If you have a few suggestions of your own for how to regain a little shred of dignity and decency in the smartphone era, I’d love to hear them. You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.