One of the constant complains that my family has with me is that I am obsessive about my gadgets. Even when I am on a holiday or during the weekend, I obsessively go for the gadgets and if it is not checking my emails, it is to check my twitter feed or my Facebook feed or my LinkedIn or my blog stats or my podcast stats or WhatsApp groups or something else. But they complain that I keep reaching for my phone or my iPad for something or the other.
I am sure this is a common phenomenon in most of our lives.
We now live in a world, where we not only carry our work in our pockets, we almost carry our entire world in our pocket, literally. I can work (emails, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, etc) or read (books, blog posts, messages from family, friends, relatives, distant relatives, etc) or listen (music, podcasts, audiobooks) or watch (movies, TV Series, Documentaries, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc) and do this on a weekday or a weekend or while standing in a que waiting for our favourite Starbucks coffee.
I am trying to become a better husband and a better father and so want to address this complain that my family has of me. So, I did what all of us do – go online and google about how to avoid spending all of my time on the phone and on these apps.
Advice, That Didn’t work for Me:
I got the same advice almost everywhere I read:
- Delete the apps on the phone. Force yourself to check your social media only when you are on your desktop. So, I did that. But wait, my time on the phone did not go down. I started using the browser on my phone to start accessing all of these functions.
- Block internet on the phone for specific times. Unfortunately, this seems like a good idea, but I don’t think I was ready for this drastic a step, so did not help me.
And some other advice that I got online but that did not work. I do a lot of reading and for my podcast have interviewed some of the brightest minds in the world. So, I thought, let me imagine and re-visit what I have learnt in all my reading and from the experts that I have either interviewed myself or listened to being interviewed by someone else.
Learning – Behavioural Insights to the Rescue
When I reflected on my learnings, I realised one thing
- Either I build the self-discipline that is required for me to disengage from my phone and the internet so I can be with my family
- or I eliminate the possibility for me to be able to access the phone completely. Okay, at least for most part of the day.
The choice became a binary choice – a choice between managing self-discipline or managing my environment.
The Choice – Finally
I have made the choice. I think it is easier to change my environment rather than changing myself. While my wife doesn’t agree with the choice (she thinks that I can not continue to avoid working on my ability to control myself and my behaviour and that at some point in time I will need all that will power to be able to do the right thing without being able to change the environment).
I think that she is partially right, I do need to work on building my will-power in certain situations, but then I don’t want to leave my attempt to becoming a better father/husband to a later time in the future.
So, I decided on the following course of action:
- When I reach home, I take a few minutes before getting down from my car to check all my feeds – twitter, facebook, linkedIn, whatsapp groups, blog stats, podcast stats, official emails, personal emails and anything else that i need to check and respond to.
- When I am done, I switch on the call-forward facility that my network provides to forward all incoming calls to my wife’s phone.
- Then I switch off my phone and put it in my bag, out of sight.
While the experiment is new and the results are only a few days old, I can report that this really works. I still have the urge to reach for my phone, but since it is not available readily and requires me to take a special effort to go and pick it from my bag, switch it on and then check my feeds, I have multiple decisions to make and at each decision, I need to think if this is really something that I want to do.
As a lot of behaviour scientists have found in their research, once you make something difficult to do, the chances are that you will not end up doing it. You might procrastinate or in some case, decide that it is not worth the effort to do that action. I am a living proof that this theory works really well.
The first few days that I have done this, I did not reach out for my phone till the time it was for me to go to bed and of course, I needed my phone then as it also functions as my alarm clock, I know, I need a new alarm clock so I don’t have to take my phone out of the bag, till next day when I get in to my car to go to office.
Question that I need to answer is the following:
Do I have the will power and the self-discipline to ensure that i do these on most days?
As they say, wives always have a way to get their way and are almost always right.
So, I am off to working on my self-discipline and will-power muscles so I can build them strong enough to be able to continue my work towards becoming a better father and a better husband.
While we all need to continue to develop our self-discipline and will-power, we can always bring in the change that we want by controlling our environment and eliminate the need to exert our precious will-power muscles on these tasks.
We consistently under-estimate the power that our environment has on us and on our behaviours. I would like to leave you with one thought or a question –
“Have you created your environment by choice or has chance determined your environment?”
If it was chance, I would urge you to take control of your environment so that it enables you rather than constrict you.
This is a sure way to reclaim your evenings and weekends for your true connections – family and friends.
PS: If you do try this as well, do share your experience with me.
A small request:
If you liked what you read/heard, I would request you to head over to my patreon page and become a patron for the blog/podcast. You could do so by contributing anywhere from a single dollar to about 1000 USD depending upon how much you like the blog/show.
Think of it like the following – I will bring thought leaders to your door step and in return all I am asking is for you to spend just enough to get a cup of coffee for the expert that is in your home.
I would like to keep this podcast ad-free and need your support regarding the same. You can also find some very interesting artists whom you can also contribute for.