by Ryan O'Hara
If I asked, do you want to -
- Get more of the right things done each day?
- Connect better with the people closest to you?
- Sleep better at night and start your day off right?
- I’m guessing you would say “yes." I would too. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t (except maybe an eighteen-month old little boy who just wants to lick toys and eat Cheerios).
Well, over the last seven days, a little bit more of each of these things have happened in my life, (thank you Jesus) by making one small but important decision with my iPhone.
At the end of our lives we will not wish that we had looked at the Internet more or wished that we had spent more time with our phones. And no one is encouraging us to. Yet, we do. With each passing week, month and year (and I’m going on Year 8 with an iPhone), we spend more and more time tapping and poking around on that little handheld computer that is more ‘my precious’ than just ‘my phone.’
A few weeks back my youngest son crawled into bed with me at about 6:30am. I laid there, phone in hand, looking at who knows what on Twitter or email and he said, “you look at your phone too much.” I couldn’t disagree.
I thought, “Well at least I don’t sleep with the phone on my pillow like they talk about some people doing.” But then I thought, “What is looking at your phone last thing of the day and first thing in the morning (before you even get out of bed), if not ‘sleeping with your phone'?” Okay. I’d morphed into one of *those* people. I didn’t choose it. But I did.
A few days later, as this pillow talk with my youngest son sank in, I decided something needed to change. A seven-day experiment.
For the next seven nights I would turn my phone off at 8pm and not turn it back on until 8am the next morning or after my prayer time, whichever came later.
After a week of this I noticed two feelings and learned two lessons.
First, the two feels:
- I felt relief. It was as though I put down something heavy that I had been carrying for a really long time. In fact, I even started looking forward to the break. This part of the experience really surprised me. I wasn't expecting to feel this way.
- I felt present. Immediately I felt more present to myself, to my family, to my house, to whatever was in front of me, because there was nowhere else to be. Our smart screen is a portal to other places - other people, other stories, other places. If the portal is closed, there’s nowhere to be but where you are. What a great feeling.
Next, the two lessons:
- Things can wait. What I’ve learned is that things take as long as the time allotted for them, so after a few days, it's felt more normal *not* to have the phone around at night and in the morning. Checking email can wait (and probably should). Getting or sending one more text message can wait. Facebook needs less time and not more time, so it can wait too. Even more I’ve seen that these things just aren't that crucial anyway. So, I’m not pushing them off to other times of the day, I’m just doing much less of them. Win. Win.
- Keep on track in the morning. Every day I want to make room, before 9am, to exercise, pray, and prep for the day. Looking at all of the Internet at 6:30am never once helped me do the things I really wanted to do before I shove off for work. It’s hard enough as it is to pray every day and exercise regularly without eating everything your smartphone is dishing up. I’ve had a great week with both prayer and exercise, and I believe there is a close connection. Also, as I pray, my mind isn’t full of Internet junk, so it’s much easier to focus on God, the scriptures, spiritual readings, and prayer intentions.
So, given what I've gained from what I've given up, I'm gonna stick with this plan for now. I'm sure that seven days hasn't presented all possible test cases and I'll likely adjust as things come up. For example, if my wife and kids aren't home the phone stays on, or if my parents need to get ahold of me after 8pm I've asked them to give my wife a ring-a-ding.
Her phone can stay on. It doesn't need to be put in time-out like mine.
At least one of us has our priorities straight.