Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Break the Habit of Checking

Are you a checker? Do you constantly check your email, check Facebook, check Instagram?

Me too.

Well, I did...before I found a way out of my obsessive checking. I knew I was spending too much time looking at my phone and not enough time engaged with the people I love or in my writing, but before I would even realize I was doing it, I was scrolling through another of the endless feeds.

I tried several things. Making rules for myself such as only check at certain times of the day or only after my work is finished, but nothing worked. I was addicted to the high of anticipation I got when I clicked on an app on my phone. But the constant checking left me feeling numb and drained of energy.

In the book The Power to Get Things Done, Steve Levinson explains that knowing why we should or shouldn't do something is an important step, but it often isn't enough. Sometimes we have to do things to trick our brains into cooperating. Because I need to be socially connected so that I can market the books I write, I couldn't simply delete all of my accounts.

So I finally found a few ways that have helped me break my habit of checking.

1. I removed all the social media apps and my personal email account from my iPhone.

This has definitely had the biggest impact on my checking. I left my work email and "Pages" app so that I could update the professional Facebook pages I manage. I also left my Kindle App, which means that when I'm bored, I often read instead of falling into mindless checking. I still have access to all my social media accounts on my iPad and computer, but because the phone was the biggest part of the problem, this cut down on the automatic checking.

2. I blocked Safari (the web browser) from my phone.

After I removed the Facebook app from my phone, I would still check it by typing it into Safari. To remove the temptation, I blocked it within my phone's restrictions. To do this, go to Settings - General - Restrictions - Enable Restrictions - Allow (Disable Safari). I could always turn it back on if I needed it for work, but it's a lot of steps and a lot of trouble, so I usually don't.

3. I unfollowed a lot (and I mean a lot) of people on Facebook.

Note that I didn't unfriend them. I can still see their pages and usually if something big happens I'll see a notification that other friends have liked or commented on their status. But this means fewer unimportant updates like quiz results or memes show up in my newsfeed. For Twitter, I created a list of my favorites. This dramatically reduced the time it takes me to scroll through my newsfeed when I do check these sites.

4. I stopped having my phone and computer remember passwords.

Sometimes the small step of having to enter a password can give us enough of a pause to realize we might be checking something out of boredom or fear of working on an important project. As a writer, I've learned that a lot of procrastination comes out of a place of fear that my writing isn't good enough or that I don't have anything to say. But seeing that login page now reminds me of what I'm doing and makes me question where my priorities are.

Everyone has different triggers, so this plan may not work perfectly for you. If that's the case, look at when and how you're checking and put barriers into place to keep you focused on what's important.

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