Toward the end of class today, one of my students asked me what advice inspired by my books I’d give them as they headed into the university’s final exam period.
I thought about it for a second before recommending a simple hack that I’ve been experimenting with recently and finding useful:
Use your smartphone only for the following activities: calls, text messages, maps, and audio (songs/podcasts/books).
I suggested that my students try this for one week while studying for their exams. I further suggested that they actually record on a calendar or in a journal whether or not they succeeded in following the rule 100% for the day. One slip to check social media, or glance at email, or look up a website, and they don’t get to mark the day as a success.
They can still do all of these online activities, but only on their laptop. When they’re away from their computer, their phone is still useful for basic operations, but it ceases to act as a crutch that helps them avoid the world around them.
This hack is lightweight — far less aggressive than what I recommend in Digital Minimalism, and therefore easier to convince people to try.
But if you give it a chance, it’s still disruptive enough to your normal routines to provide key insight into just how dependent you may have become on mediating your experience through a constant background hum of digital intervention.