The other day while working in the barn, I listened to a podcast interview with Cal Newport. For those of you who don’t know of Cal Newport, he is a professor of computer science at Georgetown University and the author of self-help six books which focus in part on being more productive by eliminating distractions so that we can focus on what is really important. The crux of the interview was that the non-productivity apps on our phone are a distraction that can take up literally hours a day, pulling our attention away from the things that are truly important.
Cal reported that he’s spoken with members of the original iPhone design team and social media apps were not really a consideration in the design of the iPhone. They wanted to enhance productivity and avoid people needing a separate mobile phone and iPod for music. (By then phones already had cameras but they were nowhere near as nice as they are now.) When asked how he would really help someone struggling to eliminate distractions and do more with his or her life, he said he would have them delete all of their apps and add them in one by one as needed.
I’m not ready to go that far, but I see my hours per day of screen time each week and it could be better. I average about 3.5 hours per day. Some of that is navigating to photoshoots using Google Maps and some is talking with friends overseas on Whatsapp. But a lot of it is Facebook and WordPress. It’s just so easy as I check something else to see if I have likes or comments. Suddenly, I am seated on the couch and half an hour has gone by. I’ve “tried to do better” and ultimately do no better.
The experiment: Starting yesterday at 5:30, I deleted FB and WordPress from my mobile phone. My accounts are still active and can be accessed via my computer so I can post and follow all of my friends here from my computer. I also deleted the one game I had on the phone and a couple of other apps that were not productive. I never had Twitter. I kept my news apps, book reading apps, podcasts, and merchants/services (though I question this last choice). I kept FB messenger because my wife uses it to get in touch with me and it otherwise takes none of my time. I also kept Instagram. Why, you ask. I installed this to share photos with my niece, it does not take up much of my time, and I have not found a way for me to post photos there from a desktop computer. I did unfollow all of the Instagram groups I was subscribed to. They tend to take up most of the little time I spend here.
I will try this for 30 days, until 5:00 PM on September 18. Will it make a difference? Will I spend all my time at my desktop or laptop computer? Or will I actually try new things that I’ve not done before? Stay tuned.