How I kicked a millennial habit

Hello, my name is Mike Street and I'm addicted to my phone.

It's not often you change a habit and it's certainly not every day you claim a YouTube video changed your life, but last week I altered what was the norm for me. Now, I appreciate how "millennial" and "first world problem" this truly sounds, and I apologise for that, but I finally stopped being addicted to my phone.

I'm not one for watching that many TED talks or presentations (although that's another habit I seem to have picked up of late), but for some reason, I was drawn to a video - an extract from an American show titled "Inside Quest". This one, in particular, featured Simon Sinek who was answering the "Millennials in the Workplace" question and how people are addicted to phones and social media. The video can be found at the end of this post.

During the 15 minute video, he explained phone addiction in a new way. I've only ever heard it in a condescending, middle-aged, "why won't these blasted kids get off their phones?", lecturing kind of way. I've known for ages I've had an addiction but have never had any motivation to end it - why would I when I get so much "pleasure" from my phone.

He also explained how he "kicked" the habit. He tells how he has gone about taking away the incentive to look at your phone - passing on to the person you've gone out to dinner with or even leaving it at home. He also pointed out how rude and distracting it was, for the person you're talking with to be looking at their phone and not you.

I tried to end this addiction once before and have already been through all the notification settings for various apps, turning off the ones that were not important. I also tried uninstalling apps such as Facebook, but my fingers just found the web browser and logged in. Now Chrome is my Facebook app and I was still looking at my phone just as much.

The points in the video Simon raised resonated with me, and I started looking at how I used my phone and how I could change my habits to stop being so reliant on the device. How I could stop being so immediate with notifications and how I can stop pulling my phone out at every opportunity. My outlook now is that if it is important, people will ring me.

It's not just this video that made me decide to do this. I've just got back from a camping trip and it was so nice to just sit, let your mind wander. Doing this made me not so scared to be bored and device-less.

My first step was my Fitbit. I own a Blaze which one of its selling points for me were all the notifications you could receive. These had to stop, as the moment my gadget buzzed I would lose track of the conversation to read my watch. I turned off all notifications except phone calls (as per the point above).

My phone also stays on silent all the time so I can get to notifications when I want to address them, not when my phone demands.

The next point to address was my constant "dual screening" in the evenings. I would sit and "watch" TV, while scanning Facebook, Twitter etc. These would distract me enough from the TV for me to lose track of the story line, but not engross me enough for me not to need a second source of entertainment. When sitting down to watch TV now, my phone goes on the table or in the kitchen - out of reach, away from temptation.

When I got into work and sat down at my desk, my first action was not to check my emails but to pull out my phone and rest it in front of me. During the day I would then instantly pick up my device whenever it's little screen lit up - getting that hit of dopamine Simon mentions, answering to its every beck and call. This now doesn't happen and the phone stays firmly in my pocket until I'm ready to look at it.

These are all just small steps but already, a week later I'm noticing a difference. I do find myself slipping up every now and then, but I'm getting better (I think). I've also mentioned it to my wife and have noticed a difference in her "presence".

To some people, this blog post may seem like a "poor me" or "well done you" attention seeking post and in a small way it is but I post it in the hope it makes someone else aware and helps someone else break that "habit".

Let me know how you get on!

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Mike Street

Written by Mike Street

Mike is a CTO and Lead Developer from Brighton, UK. He spends his time writing, cycling and coding. You can find Mike on Mastodon.