One Small Change I Made That Improved My Daily Mental State
We all have a pretty good idea about things that drag down our productivity or suck up time that would be better spent on more fulfilling activities.
Two years ago I made a commitment to stop bringing my mobile phone into my bedroom and with like a 95% compliance rate this made a big improvement. At nighttime I don’t check my email or social feed right before bed, which helps me from having last-minute anxiety before going to sleep. But more concerning for me is that I often found myself checking email or social feeds in bed in the morning and this is a TOTAL waste.
- I prefer to have peacefulness in the morning and time to think / chill out / zone out. This is critical to peace of mine, but …
- If I DO need to get work done I’m infinitely more productive if I come to my computer with a big screen and keyboard.
So my goal was to either have more time to just think or relax OR admit that I have work to do and do it more productively. I’m happy to say that this has been a huge improvement in my life and productivity and I notice the downside of this behavior when I travel and have my mobile phone in my hotel room. I sink back into old habits and regret the wasted time.
I had a more important breakthrough about 90 days ago.
I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone. This has been game changing. I’m not a connected-all-the-time social media user anyways so it wasn’t immediately obvious to me how profoundly positive this would be but I’ll explain why it’s been such a positive experience. Let me start by telling you I didn’t stop using Facebook or Twitter entirely — I just deleted them off of my mobile phone.
Why did I delete Facebook and Twitter?
For starters I must tell you that I’m not a Facebook or Twitter mobile “power user” — I mostly used them to fill downtime. Maybe I’d be at a sports match or concert and was between plays or songs or I’d be on public transportation. I might use them if I showed up to a coffee meeting and the other party wasn’t there yet. Or at a school function where the speaker was boring me. I guess you could say that it was fuel to my ADD and need to be distracted.
Like many of you intuitively I knew it wasn’t good for me. I felt I had less time to allow my brain to react and the more I checked social feeds the more I felt the need to check social feeds. Of course when you’re looking at your feed you are by definition not present with the person you are with or paying attention to the moment. Your brain in lost in a virtual world of mostly unimportant information that will still be there when you get home. I have known this for a long time but did nothing about it.
But I chose to delete Facebook & Twitter because I found myself being angry too often and I could feel the effects on my mindfulness during the day. If I checked my feed between meetings I would inevitably find something outrageous that Donald Trump had said or done and I would instantly be angry. But I couldn’t DO anything about it so it just made me angry for no reason.
So I deleted the apps and decided I would check Facebook and Twitter in the evening when I sat down at my computer and only if I felt like it. I love Facebook for showing me what my friends & family are up to but I’ve grown tired of it as my news source. I love checking Twitter to see what my friends and work colleagues are saying and I’ve already blocked Trolls and muted over-sharers so I’ve pruned it to what I really want to see. But I don’t need to see it during the day and I don’t need to post to it during a concert, sports event or school recital.
My routine has changed a great deal. After responding to email, rather than checking Facebook I find myself going straight to Axios to check the news summary. I find Axios to be a much better aggregator for what I want to know (politics, news, tech) than Facebook is. I don’t get sucked into meaningless videos or news stories. I then check Washington Post and NY Times. I then open Twitter, look at what friends are saying and respond to people who have @ messaged me.
What have I noticed?
This has really had a massive improvement on every day of my life in ways I can’t describe unless you try it yourself.
Yes, I don’t know EVERYTHING going on at EVERY MINUTE during the day but I read voraciously in the evening and always feel informed. The status of a hurricane when I’m living in California won’t change enough between 3pm and 9pm when I read about it to matter to me.
I find myself less addicted to checking my phone. Not zero addiction but greatly reduced.
I find myself more at peace during the day. I still think Donald Trump is a fucking idiot and he annoys me daily but it’s much easier to digest on my own terms and my own time and stay peaceful during the day.
But by deleting Facebook & Twitter I’ve also found myself significantly less likely to feel like “I need to share this moment with friends … now, now now!” I share a bit on Twitter. I share a bit on Snapchat. I share a bit on Instagram. But less than before and cutting out Facebook & Twitter on my mobile phone has helped a great deal.
Yes, I can check the mobile web versions (that are actually quite good) if I truly feel the need. But no more notification messages. No more red nagging button beckoning me to open the app. No more addiction.
Am I going to delete other social media apps?
For now I’m very content not to cut out other apps but we’ll see in the future. My great secret that few over 35 understand is that the best place to truly discover breaking news is Snapchat. In a time of tragedy it will make you cry. But you’ll see the raw realities on the ground. Or you’ll see fan reactions to your favorite football game. It’s curated, which post Russia turns out to actually be quite a good thing.
I turned off notifications for 100% of the apps I use. Your app can’t try to pop my Dopamine and try to drag my into being addicted to using it. I’ll check when I’m ready. I’m all good.
I love Instagram because it’s the best of what I loved about Facebook (photos of friends and family) with none of the politics and news. Until Facebook and Twitter allows me to block stories about Trump or right-wing racists like Jeff Sessions, Sebastian Gorka or Stephen Miller — I’m frankly just not that interested in spending my time there. It’s become a place of anger and hatred and I get nothing back from that exchange.
I still love Twitter but I use it much less during the day.
- It is still a great place for breaking or trending news before videos get uploaded and vetted onto Snap (Earthquake!)
- I still get DMs there so it can be useful to have lightweight chats with industry professionals
- I still use it for LinkedIn-like functionality. When I read about a company or an entrepreneur I check his or her feed, read about them, click on links. It’s very useful for that.
But I’m still considering trying to turn my smart phone into a truly smart phone — limited social media.
The apps on our mobile phones have played an important role in our daily lives. I Waze almost daily to fight LA traffic accidents. I Yelp constantly to find a local cafe or restaurant for my meetings in cities I don’t know well. I look up hotels nearby on TripAdvisor and transfer money using PayPal or SquareCash (yes, I know the cool kids, including my wife, use Venmo).
So I love having a smart phone. But for the most part I’ve found that having Facebook and Twitter on my phone hasn’t been smart, quite the opposite.
In reality I’m guessing that even Facebook or Twitter executives would privately admit that limiting their usage in our moments between moments is a worthy outcome in improving your mental state and peacefulness. And that best way I know to resist anything addictive is not to be around it constantly.
One Small Change I Made That Improved My Daily Mental State was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.