My Discipline Problem

Even though I regularly write, think, and speak about faith and technology, that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the lure of “technology addiction.”

Specifically, one area that I often struggle in properly disciplining is avoiding unnecessary email and social media checks when I’m home with my family. Sometimes when I pull out my phone “just to check the time,” I find myself wanting to check various apps and clear out unread items.

That’s not to say I’m always on my phone. Judging by other dads around me who are often glued to their glowing rectangles, I think I do a pretty decent job of keeping my phone in my pocket. Yet, the battle seems tougher than it needs to be, and being a rather lazy soul, I wanted to find a way to make things easier on myself.

Old Tech to the Rescue

Swiss Watch

So for Christmas I asked for something simple: a watch.

When I have my phone in my pocket and I my mind wanders to something I could do on the phone, I have to make a choice not to pull it out. Or if I need to check the time, I have to make a choice not to do more.

But now that I have the watch, when I got home from work the first thing I do is put my phone on the kitchen counter (turning the ringer on so I can hear it). This way, I’m free to play with my kids and enjoy my family, but I can still keep up with the time if needed.

By putting the phone off to the side, it’s a little harder to get to, and therefore less of a “temptation.” Of course, there are time when I do need it, and it would be more convenient to have it readily available. But with a watch on my arm, I have the tool I need is readily available, and the temptation I don’t want is just far enough away to make it unworthy of pursuit.

Thresholds are Your Best Tool

This strategy is very similar to techniques often recommended for diet and exercise. If you want to avoid sweets, you can make it easier on yourself by removing them from your immediate area and thereby “raising the threshold” necessary to consume them. Driving to the gas station is much harder than walking to the fridge, so when temptation strikes, you’re more likely to conclude it’s too much trouble to get them and then the feeling will pass.

Similarly, you can lower a threshold to make a difficult task easier. If you want to exercise in the morning, it’ll be easier if you set out clothes and shoes the night before. When you wake up, there will be less resistance (and fewer excuses) and you’re more likely to do it.

With technology, if there’s something you want to avoid you can raise the threshold a bit, intentionally making it just a little harder to consume so that you’ll have to think twice about whether you really need to.

I’ll let you know how my little watch experiment goes.