It might sound a little odd that Google has an entire team dedicated to digital wellbeing but really, it makes sense when you think about it. Our addiction to all forms of technology, but particularly our phones, reduces our productivity, makes us easily distracted and affects our overall health, including our mental health and sleeping patterns. The ping of a notification gives you anxiety, you feel pressured to respond quickly and also the addictiveness of just picking up your phone to see what’s new.
Enter: Rose La Prairie. She heads up Google’s product team for digital wellbeing on Android. She and her team think about ways to improve your relationship with your phone, ensuring it is helping you with life, not distracting you from it. Pick up any Android 9 or higher (including the new Pixel 3 with its ridiculous camera) and you'll find the Digital Wellbeing section in settings, which offers you a selection of tools to sleep better, work better and generally live better.
Here, she offers her advice on getting out of your phone rut.
On breaking the habit
These tech habits we’ve established are pretty ingrained at this point, so how do we break the habit?
Get a buddy. My husband and I have a rule that phones down at 10.45, so if either one of us pull out our phone after that, we call one another out. Doing it with someone can go a long way to helping you establish and stick to new routines. The second is set realistic goals. You’re not locking yourself into this routine forever. Try it for a week or so, and feeling the benefit will often help you stick to it.
So many of us feel the pressure of a build-up of notifications, like a growing email inbox, except it’s always there in your pocket. Every time you check the phone or pick up a call, you’re reminded of all the things you haven’t done.
Do a little spring clean. We all have notifications on our phone that we never interact with. For one week, every time you get a notification, ask yourself if this is useful to you, and if it does not help just turn it off. Most apps will also have a notification breakdown, so you can pick and choose who you hear from.
Sleep is really becoming an issue in our “always on” world. But let’s be honest, who is going to leave their phone in another room as they go to bed – for starters, what will be your alarm?
Take things slowly. I wouldn’t expect to run a marathon or hang out with a group of busy people and then instantly go to sleep. We can’t expect to be fully engrossed in our phones and then immediately fall asleep. Set an alarm for half an hour before you would normally put down your phone, and then increase that time incrementally. If you’ve got an Android 9 or higher, activate the Wind Down mode. This will put your phone to grayscale, which makes your apps less interesting and therefore easier to put away.
On family screentime
Our children are living in a very different world to the one we grew up in, and it can sometimes feel impossible to coax them out of their screens for some family time.
Look at your own usage. Everyone needs to be accountable to one another. If you are asking your children to put their phones away at dinner while your own buzzes next to your plate, it’s going to be hard to take you seriously.