Most of the time, I’ll start a post with the reasons why it matters. But do I even need to do that here? I think it’s pretty darn obvious that technology is running our lives. And if we don’t proactively choose to fight against that, it will overtake us.
For me, setting boundaries has been a slow, continual practice over the last couple of years. But I started setting them when I realized anxiety was crippling my life and I continue to reassess them anytime I see it creeping back in. I’m sure it will forever be an evolving practice, but I wanted to bring y’all into the things I’ve done that have made such a difference.
And I don’t know about y’all, but when I see most people talk on this topic, they stay very high level. But I don’t need the “just stop looking at Instagram as much” advice. I need the real “how do I actually make this happen” tips. So here are mine.
These are the 9 very tangible, super real and practical steps I’ve taken to streamline my use of technology.
1 // I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone.
Truly, all of them besides: texts, calls, Google Calendar (which helps move me along in my timeblocks throughout the day), MyFLO (which only gives me a few notifications per month as I move through my cycle), my weekly Screen Time update (which I love being reminded of), Streaks (which has recently replaced my Reminders app), and Round (which reminds me to take my supplements + medication at the right time every day). Of course I have a ton of other apps I use on my phone, but I choose when I open them and seek them out, they don’t choose that for me. (I talked about how I do this with email in this post.)
2 // I put my phone in the cabinet.
I’ve been doing this one for a few years now, but I believe it’s one of the most important. I set up a little charge cord in the cabinet under our TV and at night, often an hour or so before bed, I plug it in and tuck it in for its own little night of sleep. Then I don’t touch it until after my morning ritual is over – water, supplements, scripture, meditation and prayer. Y’all, I really strongly believe sleeping with your phone is death. I can’t tell you what an insanely drastic difference I see in my ability to sleep if I ever bring my phone in the room with me. (Hint: it’s not a good drastic.)
3 // I try not to use my phone or laptop at least an hour before bed.
I felt like “try” was an important word here because I’m of course not perfect at it, but I succeed 95% of my evenings. It is so darn important we tell our bodies when it’s time to start powering down, and if all of our tech is still fully powered on while we’re trying to slow our own systems down, we’re sending mixed signals that just aren’t fair.
4 // I don’t allow technology in the bedroom.
This goes with boundary #2, but it’s worth noting that my phone and my laptop hardly ever enter the walls of my bedroom. And we don’t have a TV in our bedroom. Maybe every once in a while if I’m folding laundry on the bed I’ll watch a Youtube video on my laptop or something, but truly it’s very rare that my technology enters my bedroom at all. I believe strongly in our brain’s association of spaces and things, and I want my brain to know my bedroom is a sanctuary free of work and stressors. It’s a place for rest and sleep and physical connection. Not work or phone calls or Netflix. Those things have their place in our home, but not in our bedroom. So I really work hard to honor that boundary by not mingling the two.
5 // I use Downtime on my phone.
Game. Changer. I think of Downtime like a customized airplane mode that still gives you access to what you need. It allows you to set a window of time every day in which your phone essentially goes into partial shut down. I have mine set from 7:30 pm – 8:30 am. For me, that gives me about an hour before bed and a few hours after I wake up and have gotten through my morning non-negotiables without notifications and distractions.
You can choose “Always Allow” apps that you want to be able to access in those down hours. For me, that’s my Abide scripture meditation app so I can meditate in the morning, my Podcasts and Spotify apps so I can take them on a morning walk, the Weather app so I can check the temp before said morning walk, and my Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club apps so I can get in an early morning sweat. But besides those apps I’ve chosen to allow, the rest of my apps are all essentially shut down – I don’t get notifications from them, and if I try to open them, it asks me if I really want to do that. Of course, it’s not that hard to still open Instagram or email, but it’s still one more barrier to stop myself from doing so and it’s helped a lot in those boundaries.
To set it up: Settings > Screen Time > Downtime
6 // I use Night Shift on my phone and Flux on my computers.
Both of these turn your screen more “warm” during scheduled hours when the sun is down so you’re not getting as much of that melatonin-ruining blue light. Sometimes we just can’t totally abide by boundary #3, so these are just extra pieces of protection that help me make sure any technology use in the evenings and early mornings isn’t destroying my natural circadian rhythm.
To set up Night Shift: Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift
To download Flux: Download here
7 // I sometimes just don’t bring my phone.
When I take Gunner on a morning walk, or Cas and I walk him to the dog park after dinner. Or when we head out for date night or sometimes even just run an errand. I’ll straight up leave my phone at home. It’s insanity how much more free I feel without it and I like to give myself at least a small chunk of time every day to feel that.
8 // I turn off most notifications on my Apple Watch, too.
I totally love my Apple Watch. And I love that it allows me to take calls and see texts and get reminders without picking up my phone and getting distracted with everything else waiting there. But I don’t need it being another device I can’t stop getting distracted by. I want it to improve my life and ease my burden, not add more distractions. So just like my phone, I make sure nearly all my watch notifications are off, besides the few I really want to be buzzed for.
9 // I use Do Not Disturb and Theatre Mode on my Apple Watch.
At night before I get in bed. (Yes, I do sleep with my watch on. Because I’m so wildly obsessed with my sleep tracking app. Want to know more about this? Let me know below!) Before I step into the yoga studio for a sweat session. Even just sometimes when I need an hour to hardcore focus at a coffee shop. Again, like boundary #8, this is just a way to make sure this handy piece of tech on my arm helps me, not distracts me.
And this doesn’t even breach the subject of social media. That’s a whole other beast for a whole other time. (Would y’all like to hear my tips on social media boundaries? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll work on that post as well.) But I hope these help y’all. Like I said, I’m not perfect. I often still feel like screens rule my life. But these are big and small things I’ve done to feel free from the burden of them. To be in control of my technology instead of letting it control me.
If you try any of these tips out, I’d really love to hear how they help you! Please do come back and let me know your thoughts below! Can’t wait to hear how they work for y’all. Here’s to being the drivers of our time! And eyeballs. xx, molls