Reclaiming the Time My Phone Steals from Me

A couple of weeks ago as I was getting ready to go to bed, my phone flashed up with an email that I’d been waiting for.

I was already late to go to bed that night but I felt compelled to read the email, because my phone was urging me to read it. Unfortunately, the email didn’t contain the news I was hoping for – in fact, it was downright upsetting.

In the past, I have struggled with anxiety and periodic bouts of acute insomnia – basically I’m not a great sleeper. Therefore, receiving bad news right before going to bed is super not ideal for me; I got about three hours sleep that night.

reclaiming my time

The next day all I could think about was how I’d have been better off if I’d ignored the notification and made the decision to read the email in the morning. And so, I replied to the email and immediately turned off notifications for that app. I thought about it some more, and I decided – well I don’t really need to receive any notifications at that time of night, do I? There’s no one in my time zone that could be trying to contact me urgently (as I live with my boyfriend and my best friend). Anyone in Australia who is trying to get a hold of me – well to be frank, there’s not much I can do about an emergency situation at 11pm from 16,000-odd kms away. So why act like I can?

So, I visited the Do Not Disturb settings on my phone and for Sunday to Thursday, I set it to block all notifications between 9.30pm and 7.30am. If I touch the Home key, I can still see the notifications on the lock screen, but it won’t light up, flash or otherwise try to get my attention. And I can sleep in peace (or in as much peace as I ever sleep).

But then I thought more about it again, about those damn notifications. Because I have a Samsung phone, when I receive a notification for certain apps the little LED indicator light in the top left corner flashes repeatedly until I dismiss the notification. It even flashes in different colours, so I can usually tell which app it is that’s demanding my attention at that moment.

reclaiming the time my phone steals from me
reclaiming the time my phone steals from me

I started paying attention to how I reacted to that little flashing light – and it wasn’t great. I realised I was staring at my phone when people were talking, waiting for the light to start flashing. As soon as it did flash, I found myself completely incapable of ignoring it until I lit up the screen and read or dismissed the notification. I was completely distracted from whatever it was I was doing – even really important things like 1:1 meetings with my manager, or dinner time with my boyfriend – because my bloody phone was demanding my attention.

I don’t want to sound more important or popular than I am, but I get a reasonable amount of notifications. People contacting me from home, dozens of promotional emails, weather notifications from Brisbane I’m too nostalgic about to turn off, Twitter threads I’ve participated in, Facebook meme tags and of course, all those Instagram likes flooding in in the hundreds (lol jk #fuckthealgorithm). Do I really need to read all of these things in real time? Is anybody really offended if I don’t respond immediately? Probably not, and if they are – fuck ‘em. Who are they to demand my time?

reclaiming my time

So I ask you too – do you really need these notifications? Really? Think about how much of your time you’re giving over to your phone.

I’m doing an experiment now. I’m trying to reclaim my time, I’m trying to stop being overwhelmed by the constant influx of information, I’m trying to fucking sleep better. For Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email, I’ve turned off push notifications. Literally nothing happens in those apps that I need to know about right away. For Messenger, WhatsApp and other miscellaneous texting apps, I’ve turned off the LED light. I’ll see how it goes, but I can’t imagine anything is going to go terribly wrong. If people need me exactly at that very moment, they can use my phone for its original purpose – to call me.

Now I just need to learn some self-control and stop myself from hitting the home key to light up the screen every 5 minutes, just to see if I’ve missed anything…

So are you going to try this too? Do you have any other methods to help you switch off from the world? Tell me below!

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How much time do you spend on your phone?
Does your phone distract you from whats important?

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10 Comments

  1. December 14, 2017 / 7:51 pm

    I used to have a phone that flashed at me – I used to call it the flashing light of doom. I got such anxiety from it. But I think I need to start leaving my phone elsewhere completely at night time and go back to an old-school alarm clock because I check it constantly out of habit.

    • December 14, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      Yeah it’s not a bad idea because even with notifications turned off the first thing I wanna do when my alarm goes off, is to check every platform to see what I missed. It’s hard when everyone you know/love is in a different time zone too! You get it, I’m sure 😉

  2. thenorthleftblog
    December 15, 2017 / 1:31 pm

    Brilliant! Although I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having a rough time sleeping. Phones and screens in general are definitely the enemy of good sleep!

    I’ve recently done something similar and sorted out my notification settings. I’m trying to be more ‘present’ and actually enjoy my day rather than worry about will people still talk to me if I don’t respond straight away, or should I add this to my insta story?!

    Good for you, hope it works for you!
    x

    • December 15, 2017 / 2:05 pm

      Yeah I always get worried about not replying right away but it never bothers me if someone takes a bit of time to get back to me. It’s totally fine for others to have life outside of replying to things on their phone, so I don’t get why I don’t do it myself. But yes! Need to be more present and that’s what it’s all about! X

  3. December 15, 2017 / 10:08 pm

    I have been anti notifications for yeeeears! My phone has always been on silent and no social beeps up. I’ve even gone one step further lately to turn off the little number which pops up to tell me if there are emails waiting. It’s just not worth it, you’re right, we don’t need to be available all the time, and it’s so not healthy! I hope it helps you!! x PS photos in this are babein’.

    • December 15, 2017 / 10:32 pm

      Earlier this year I stopped my phone from vibrating or beeping which I didn’t miss at all… But I think that’s when I got obsessed with the LED light! The little number though is the next thing I have to take a look at…

      Thank you, re: photos! Trying to put a bit more effort into that side 😅

  4. December 21, 2017 / 11:25 am

    I just found this post through Jasmin’s 10 things post. I’m a chronic phone checker and it’s something I’m working really hard at getting better at, and I think I need to do what you’ve done and turn notifcations off at a certain time of night. I wonder if there’s a way to only allow messages from certain people through, though like my Mum or Nan since I know the only reason they’d contact me is an emergency at that time of night.
    The worst thing I do is check emails constantly. I don’t get useful emails that often at all, and it’s usually to do with university. So, if I’m expecting an answer about something I just check and check, and drive myself up the wall. I need to stop learning to let go a little if I’m waiting on someone.

    • December 21, 2017 / 11:49 am

      It’s such a hard habit to break! I believe the DND settings can be changed to allow phone calls through – perhaps you can let your Mum and Nan know they need to call you if it’s an emergency?
      Emails is the worst for me as well, but since turning off notifications for it, I’ve barely thought about it. For some reason I have 4 email accounts so it was just constant.
      At the end of the day, it’s not going to make it happen any faster! Sit back and take things as they come…
      Thank you for visiting! Xx

  5. December 22, 2017 / 1:27 pm

    It’s amazing how much time your phone takes up isn’t it? I often have my phone on silent and my Whatsapp notifications are turned off too. At night I put it face down on my bedside table too so the screen won’t disturb my sleep. Hopefully you’ll be able to sleep better and reclaim more time from your phone!

    • December 22, 2017 / 6:00 pm

      I know, I stare at the screen for hours without even realising! It’s crazy. I always had my phone on mute, this is just the next step I suppose. Thank you, so far so good ✊

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