Having the ability to check email – and a bajillion other things – any time at all, not just when I’m sitting at a computer looking at a web browser… I started to suspect it was not such a great thing for me.
So he deleted the most distracting apps on his phone— and in more than a year he hasn’t looked back, as he explains in a new piece. It’s had various benefits, among them discovering the virtues of slight boredom (a subject that’s also interested me). The new piece concludes with some suggestions for conducting your own experiment: disable Safari and Mail (you can’t delete them, but you can make them inoperable); delete what he calls “infinity apps” (apps that “have a potentially endless supply of new and interesting stuff”); and make conscious choices about what apps you keep on your phone.
I’ve written about making your iPhone more mindful, and while I’ve tended to focus more on how to make the device a more discriminating judge of when you can be interrupted, these suggestions make perfect sense to me.
And if you don’t like either of our suggestions, there’s a growing confessional “What I took off my iPhone" literature: you could try Lisa Bari’s Medium essay, or Evan Solomon’s “Siri, Focus my Attention,” for starters.
None of these essays, I hasten to note, is in any way anti-technology: Knapp is at Google Ventures, Lisa Bari works on electronic health records, and Evan Solomon is at (surprise) Medium. Nobody talks about throwing their phone in a fish tank, or giving it to a snow monkey. As I explain in my book, Silicon Valley incubates both new technologies, and efforts to figure out how the heck to deal with those technologies. The Digital Sabbath movement, for example, started here over a decade ago
in a course on “the art of aligning your inner and outer lives and living life according to your values” taught by Anne Dilenschneider, a psychologist and Methodist pastor who works with nonprofits and clergy, and Andrea Bauer, an executive coach who works with Silicon Valley CEOs and managers.
Each had seen her share of people working ten-hour days, living in a constant stream of e-mail and meetings, losing the ability to step back and reflect. Even clergy were treating churches like startups, and they faced pressure to fund-raise, develop new programs, put their sermons in PowerPoint, and grow their congregations. “We wanted to do a class that helped people reconnect with themselves,” Dilenschneider recalls, speaking to me from Fargo, North Dakota, where she’s completing a clinical psychology residency and working as a pastor. Inspired by Julia Cameron’s idea of an “artist’s date,” she and Bauer told students to spend a day unplugged, to take a break from the world of work and the endless tug of e-mail, turn off their pagers and PalmPilots (cutting-edge technology when they taught the class in 2001), and spend the day doing consciously low-tech things.
Likewise, these essays are an effort to figure out how to keep using the good parts of the iPhone, while cutting away the bad— to take note of what works and what doesn’t, and use it more mindfully.
Kanpp concludes with this awesome recommendation:
When we invest our time and energy in technology — as creators or consumers — we should invest in products that belong in “The Future” and not those that make our lives disappear faster than they already do.
Personally, my life’s already going by at the speed of light. But this past year, it felt just the tiniest bit slower.