Chip Martens — The phone as a tool

Lately I’ve been dwelling a lot on simpler times from when I was younger, riding bikes around all day, pushing the boundaries of my curfew, sleeping in without any place to be, other than to meet my friends at the skatepark sometime before lunch. The only thing that really mattered was that my bike was ready to ride all day.

I’ve grown up, I have a career, a wife, a house, a child… and these things take up time. I understand that. One thing I’ve noticed that eats up a lion’s share of my time, that wasn’t present in my early year, is my cell phone. I mean, I had a cell phone, but all I could do was call and text. Now, our phones are our life, they contain our calendars, emails, reminders, news, books, video games, social media, activity trackers…. distractions!

How much more time would we have without these devices in our lives? How much better would our relationships be if we put down our phones at the diner table? While watching television? While out for a family walk? While playing with our kids?

Switching how we use our phones

Here’s something that I’m trying out that you can try to. Delete everything on your phone except for the stock apps. Go ahead, give it a try. It sounds easy, but it’s a lot harder than you thing. I can’t count how many times I’ve tried this and weeks later found myself with a home screen full of time wasters.

It’s only a matter of days until I realize that I’m not present in my relationship with my wife and daughter, I give myself a shake and start the whole process over again. It’s not a change that can happen overnight, we’re addicts, but slowly over time you’ll find yourself requiring fewer and fewer apps, and find yourself more and more present in the moment.

My Home Screen

Every app on my phone lives on my home screen. I have a single folder that contains a few select apps that Apple still doesn’t let me delete or hide, otherwise here is what I see:

Nice and simple. I try to use the stock apps, as it syncs well with the apps on my MacBook, but Fantastical is worlds ahead of Apple in regards to the calendar app. Notifications are all off, other than from work & family phone calls or text messages and I have to manually refresh my email. Distractions are limited, and slowly but surely I can feel myself breaking the phone-reflex we all have where we needlessly check our phones.

The weather was the last thing that really required me to check on a regular basis. My reason for deleting it was simple: I’m biking to work regardless of the weather, and I always carry my rain gear on me anyway, so what does it matter if it’s going to rain or be +30, or if we’re expecting a blizzard, I’m always pretty well prepared.

The End Goal

My cell phone is my main office phone, so I know that I’ll always need one as long as I’m in this line of work. Having email is super convenient when in a meeting and I need to quickly pull up a message from the archives. The ability to take notes and sync them to my computer, or check a shared list or calendar with my wife is great. I don’t think I’ll ever get away without a phone completely… but if I could get home, plug my phone in and just leave it alone until the alarm app wakes me up in the morning, I would be happy with that.