Let’s face it: Technology is everywhere, but the more we depend on it, and the more we use it when we don’t really need it, the harder it becomes to create meaningful relationships—and sometimes, it actually makes things more difficult.
Is it really best to brainstorm an upcoming project with your co-worker over email, or would it make more sense to walk over to her desk and just tell her? Can you actually go a whole dinner without checking your email? Is it necessary to charge your phone right by your head at night?
I challenge you to try going without technology when possible—you’ll be surprised how great it feels (and how little really happens when you’re out of touch). To get started, here are some simple tips to break your addiction, or more realistically, at least start that process.
1. Ground Yourself
Take it from Managing Editor Jenni Maier—grounding yourself works. She kept her phone “locked away” in her jacket hanging across the office every morning and found it increased her productivity and made her appreciate the “treat” of using it after she got stuff done.
Do this yourself by storing your phone away out of reach or turning it on Airplane mode in an important meeting, during lunch, or while you’re focusing on a good book or conversation. The more you do it, the easier and more natural it will be to go long periods of time without checking it at all.
2. Stop Sleeping With It
This is a biggie. I bet you’d never consider sleeping in one room while your phone charges in another. I’d also place bets that you charge it near your head, or on the nightstand next to you.
The thing is, you’re sleeping, right? So why do you need to have it near you?
The convenience of it is exactly what’s holding your addiction. When you physically remove it from your presence, you voluntarily stop yourself from needing it 24/7. And when you wake up, you’ll actually be more inclined to get out of bed and start the day, rather than lay there to immediately catch up on everything you missed.
3. Take Part in a No-Text Weekend
If you can’t part with your phone for any second, how about let’s revamp how we use it? Before texting, talking over the phone was a convenient way to have a real, impactful conversation with someone. And it still is!
So, how about taking a pledge one weekend or once a week (or, take part in the new movement September 23 through 25) to resort to any form of communicating besides texting. And yes, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are included. Challenge yourself to meet in person, or schedule plans in advance so you don’t have to text back and forth about it. Like No-Text Weekend’s website says, “Choose forks over phones at dinner” for once—you won’t regret it.
4. Go for Paper
Apps are great, especially when you’re trying to balance a billion activities. But ask yourself if you’re missing out on opportunities to switch over to pen and paper.
Here are some ideas: Create an old-fashioned to-do list using paper, sketch out your presentation on a white board before creating it, or take handwritten notes during a meeting. It might actually be just as, if not more, efficient—and it’ll take your eyes off a glaring screen for a bit.
Plus, science says it can be beneficial in other ways. One study by researchers at Princeton and the University of California states that students who write their notes are smarter and more engaged than those who type them, while other studies claim it makes you a better writer and keeps your mind sharp as you get older. So basically, it’s a win-win-win situation.
5. Write More Letters
You probably don’t get a lot of letters—email, plenty, but not a ton of snail mail. And it’s pretty devastating, right? What’s the point of even checking your mailbox if all you’re going to get is coupons and old magazines?
Make it a habit to send letters and postcards to friends and family for fun, whether it’s for someone who lives across the country or someone who moved to the next town over. If the idea stresses you out (What am I supposed to even write about to someone I could easily email or text?), remember that it’s not about what you write, it’s the thought that counts.
So recount your week, bring up an old memory, or even draw some pictures (or, color a postcard for an extra stress-reliever). Because these are people you rarely communicate with in this way, they’ll be excited to get an authentic “hello” from you instead of a jumble of emojis.
Same thing goes for work—instead of sending someone a reminder email, write him or her a quick note and put it on his or her desk. Or, instead of writing a thank you email to a networking contact, send the person a nice letter. It’s that personal touch that’ll make your interactions so much stronger.
6. Put it Into Perspective
The best way to break any addiction is to get to and address the root of the problem. What are you so afraid of missing on your phone? What are you waiting for? What are you most anxious about?
Make these fears easier on yourself—if you’re waiting on an important email, set an OOO message that makes it clear how to reach you if it’s urgent. If you’re afraid of missing out on all the latest stories and updates, set up a reader like Feedly that tracks your favorite outlets for you and has them all waiting for you when your phone’s back in your hand.
Then, think about the trade-off: Would you rather bury your nose in your phone, or catch up with your friends over lunch? Would you rather read through those email newsletters, or grab a drink with a former colleague? Would you rather scroll mindlessly through Instagram, or go for a run? It’s not that you can’t do both, but when you look at it like this, the decision to put your phone down becomes much easier.
Breaking your dependence doesn’t mean you have to throw out all your gadgets. It’s about monitoring yourself and making choices. Those text messages and alerts might make you happy in the moment, but living a balanced life will make you happier all the time.