This weekend, inspired by the Cool Mom Picks book club video chat about How to Break Up with Your Phone, I decided to try one of author Catherine Price’s tips to help me be more mindful about my screen time, and more aware of how much I pick up my phone.
She suggested that you change your lock screen to upload wallpaper with the question: What do I want to pay attention to? — and that’s a fabulous idea. But I decided to go a slightly different route.
I created a graphic with one of my favorite all-time quotes from Annie Dillard. This is a quote that’s been taped to my wall, tacked to my office bulletin board, scribbled on paper and tucked into my wallet. And now, it’s what I see every time I pick up my phone.
My 12-year-old daughter caught a glimpse, said it “looked cool” and asked me what it was. I explained to her that this quote is to remind me, every time I reach for my phone, that I can decide whether I really need to check it right no. It’s to help me be better about engaging in an activity without my phone in my hand entirely, and overall, be more thoughtful about my mobile screen time so I can spend more unplugged time with my kids.
She hugged me.
You guys…she hugged me.
A giant, happy, full-on bear hug, with her arms wrapped around my waist.
I’m tearing up thinking about it.
Our kids see us on our phones. They know when we’re half-listening to them, or scrolling Twitter while watching a show together. And while mine know that my job involves social media, and that I can’t disconnect all the time (sometimes, being reachable on-the-go can actually free me up to be out with my kids instead of tethered to my desk), just my daughter knowing that I was thinking about my kids in this way, inspired that monstrous, spontaneous, hug-to-end-all-hugs.
If that’s not a hint for me, I don’t know what is.
So far, it’s been working in small ways that will hopefully lead to bigger changes. Last night, I even got through one (admittedly painful) made-for-Netfix romantic comedy with my daughter, totally 100% phone-free.
Free lock screen wallpaper to help you be more mindful with your own screen time
Since Catherine’s tip really has helped me, I figured I’d put together some other lock-screen wallpaper here that might work best for you.
Just right click to download (free, no catch!) or press/hold directly on mobile, and upload as your phone’s lock screen wallpaper.
I created them sized for an iPhone 8 Plus because the screen size is so large, but you should be able to resize to fit virtually any phone, iOS or Android.
Start with author Catherine Price’s suggestion and ask yourself this question. Do it often enough, and the idea is that eventually, you’ll start creating better habits. If you want to know some of her other ideas, be sure to listen to the Spawned podcast interview about How to Break Up with Your Phone, or watch me summarize the top tips on this Facebook live video.
Want to steal my lock screen with this quote from Annie Dillard? Feel free! (#twinning) If you ever run into me somewhere, just flash it and I’ll give you a huge hug.
If you’re the type who’s tempted to multi-task with tech (raising my hand here), as in checking your messages or sending a text while you’re doing something that requires more focus, this question may be the right one to ask yourself. Simply: Can it wait? The answer may help keep you on task until not picking up your phone becomes the habit.
You may be the type of person who works best with an open question. Instead of checking your notifications, opening a game, or scrolling through memes, what would you rather be doing? This has helped me spend a lot more time catching up on the NYT Crossword on weekends. (Screen time isn’t always bad!)
As parents, we’re all frazzled, overtaxed, and stressed more often than we should be. We all joke about what we’d do with free time if we had it. It’s easy to pick up just five minutes in your day at a time by minimizing needless screen time. Maybe you’ll be able to write a thank you note, send an RSVP, schedule a lunch with a friend, or jot down ideas for a craft project you’ve had in mind. Or hey, download a book you’ve been meaning to read, or subscribe to a new podcast. All screen time isn’t bad!
This is a question that may work well for those of us with kids and partners relying on us. If we put down our phone, who could we be helping? What problem could we be solving? Where are we most needed? I notice that sometimes I avoid tasks I don’t want to do by picking up my phone, and when I think about the alternatives as being needed, it helps me prioritize them in my life.
I’ve always loved the tip from the author of The Art of Screen Time, Anya Kamanetz, to narrate (yes, out loud) exactly what you’re doing with your phone every time. Caroline describes it really well in our Curb Your Screen Time Addiction series. When you’re forced to say “I’m picking up my phone” each time, it may help you determine whether you feel smart (like if you’re paying a bill or responding to a teacher’s email), or whether you feel…well, like maybe playing level 2047 of Candy Crush isn’t a big priority right now after all.
No shaming here, no judging. Just a little bit of inspiration to help you make better, more mindful choices about how you’re spending your time.
And hey, maybe that choice helps get you something even more valuable than the good feeling of a Facebook like or a cute kitten video on Instagram. Maybe it will help you to start that book you’ve wanted to read (or write!); maybe you’ll go out and take some photos instead of looking at other people’s; maybe you’ll purge your closet or say to the kids hey, let’s go out for a walk to get some ice cream.
Or, maybe you’ll stay online; only instead of scrolling social, you’ll write an email to a long-lost friend or nab those theater tickets you’ve been meaning to get.
Then again it could also lead to one massive, memorable kid hug. That works too.