Twelve years ago I canceled every phone alert that didn’t come from my wife, every social media account, and many unimportant diversions. I wrote a best-selling book about the life-changing experience and received reader mail from all over the world sharing similar stories of sublime focus, better relationships, and greater fulfillment.
Better yet, I didn’t have to move to the mountains, quit my favorite hobbies, or commit social suicide to accomplish this. I didn’t even have to sacrifice my professional growth or even abandon my smartphone (the most empowering technology in my lifetime).
But I did have to change my default phone, screen, and technology settings to avoid fear of missing out (FOMO) syndrome, a first-world problem that phones made mainstream. To do this, I silenced all my phone notifications and alerts (both visual and audible) unless they come from my wife and kids. Apps (and by extension my phone) are not allowed to interrupt my life under any circumstance. I reach for it when I need to use it. Never the other way around.
The only exception to this is phone calls, which is how true emergencies are still communicated. Thanks to a spam filter, I get very few phones calls. Turns out, most of life’s “emergencies” are easily handled by text or email, which I likely won’t see until I’m done with the current task at hand, which might take me a few hours, but I’ll still get it done in a reasonable amount of time.
But I digress. People who are way smarter than me, including many Silicon Valley executives such as Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, take a similar approach to gutting their phone notifications. They do this because it’s the greatest life-hack of the 21st century. They do this because it helps them to reclaim up to 20 hours week, in my estimation, and up to 40 depending on how obsessed you are with doomscrolling, screen binging, and addictive gaming.
Let that sink in for a moment. THERE VERY PEOPLE THAT INVENTED THESE THINGS DON’T USE THEM AS DESIGNED.
Don’t believe me? The burden of proof is on you. The only thing I’m “selling” is more free time for yourself, which I’m convinced everyone of us can use to live a more meaningful life. Living heads down is no way to live. I’m convinced the world would be a better place if more people lived heads-up instead. That’s why I do this.
As the northern hemisphere reblooms this spring, I challenge you to swallow your ego, turn off your phone alerts unless they come from your closest loved ones, and see what you can do with all the distraction-free time I’m promising. Granted, I won the “high energy” lottery at birth. But it’s not the only superpower I use to seize the day.
I just stay off screens more than most people.