We bought iPhones.  My wife was thrilled – she got her way.  I was a skeptic and now… well, let’s just say I think this is a really amazing phone.  I find myself using it for many different things.  I love how everything is right at my fingertips with a beautifully designed app.  However, after a few weeks of using it, I noticed something strange.

There would be moments of utter silence at my house while my wife was on her phone, I was on mine, and our daughter was peering over my shoulder looking at my phone.  What happened to my loud, chaotic house?  Answering texts, updating Facebook, tweeting quotes, crushing candy, catapulting birds, reading blogs, and pinning pins became the norm.

Photo Courtesy of Quin@

Photo Courtesy of Quin@ (cc)

The iPhone slowly became the unhealthy center of our home.  We became addicts.  This is not uncommon.  I look around everywhere and see that people are swiping, pressing, and reading something on their phones.  Do you find yourself thinking one of the following?

  1. Answer this text message right now!
  2. Check the latest score for the Texas Rangers game!
  3. Scan the Facebook news feed just in case you miss out on anything!
  4. Squeeze in one level of Candy Crush while you wait for 5 seconds!
  5. Did you hear that?  I think it was my phone – I need to get it.

Yeah, you’re an addict.

Your smart phone has turned you into a dummyInstead of using your phone, your phone is using you!  Since my family is determined to come out of our self-induced iPhone coma, we’ve come up with 3 steps to empower you to use your smart phone like a smart person, and they are as follows:

Step #1: Measure Your Phone Usage

Track how much you use your phone for the next few days.  Do you check your phone right when you wake up?  Are you still in bed?  As you fall asleep?  Do you check your phone while eating?  While driving?  While in the middle of a conversation?  While at work?  During meetings?  In the bathroom?  Be honest.

You will be surprised how often you use your phone.  Don’t be hard on yourself – that’s not the point.  What I hope you realize is that some of these moments can be stopped, while others can be maximized.  For example, in the morning, I check the weather, the Bible, RunKeeper, LoseIt!, Pulse, and Feedly.  It’s my morning ritual.  I keep that ritual, but I don’t have to do all the other stuff like email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Step #2: Initiate Rhythms of Disengagement

Now that you know how often you are on the phone, create ways to disengage from your phone.  Here are a few tips to start your disengagement process:

  1. Turn off all frivolous notifications, bells, alarms, etc.
  2. Place your phone next to your keys or wallet in another room
  3. Keep your phone face down if it has to be near you
  4. Make calls/texts during scheduled times of the day
  5. Never let a physically present person be trumped by your phone
  6. Refrain from getting your phone because you are bored

Your brain needs a break.  It does not want more data.  It just wants to imagine, muse, and create stuff for no reason.  So let it.  One of my spiritual mentors pointed out how much of the world we miss when we remain fixated to our phones.  Your kids grow up.  Your wife/husband grows distant.  Your friendships become superficial.  You miss the opportunity for significant conversations.  You skip over the beauty of sitting and taking in life.  Your prayer life plummets.  You stop noticing the presence of God in your life.  Dang.

Step #3:  Organize for Maximum Productivity

Organize your phone by what YOU do with it, not by what your apps do.  Consider what you learned while measuring your phone usage (Step #1).  Do you use it more in the mornings?  While on the road?  To relax in the evenings?  Now, create categories that fit your day.  I suggest naming these categories after actions verbs.  Check out my categories (i.e. Row #2, Row #3):

Photo Courtesy of Betina Daniel (c)

Photo Courtesy of Betina Daniel (c)

Row #2

  • START.  Apps I use to start my day.
  • COMMUTE.  Apps I use on my commute.
  • ADVANCE.  Apps I use to advance the mission.
  • INFLUENCE.  Apps I use to influence others positively.

Row #3

  • UTILIZE.  Apps I utilize to do something quickly.
  • CREATE.  Apps I use to create ideas, art, photos, etc.
  • TRAVEL.  Apps I use during travel.
  • RELAX.  Apps I use when I want to relax.

Instead of having your apps all over the place at random, place them together into groups by what you hope to accomplish.  By grouping your apps together by actions, you know exactly what you want to do when you grab your phone.  If it is not one of these actions, then don’t pick up your phone.

Get rid of apps that don’t help you accomplish these actions.  Don’t waste time.  For example, I was addicted to this game called “Candy Crush” so I deleted it.  In stark contrast, I wasn’t reading my Bible enough so I added a new Bible app called “Glo Bible”.  I knew I wanted to keep track of my weight and calorie intake, so I added “LoseIt!”.

Bottom line — take control of your phone by being intentional.  Don’t let your phone control you.  Ask yourself if what you are currently doing on your phone is really worth missing out on what God might be doing in and/or around you?  I doubt anything on your phone is that important.  Be smart with your smart phone.  Love people, lead noble causes, and live on purpose!  Let your smart phone help you accomplish that.  You are an Everyday World Changer.  Start today!

What does your phone usage look like?  Do you need to disengage more?  Do you have any other ideas or tips about using smart phones?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Please comment below.