New Year, New Me – Part 2

Do I spend too long on a phone? I often wonder this. Building upon January’s goal of meditating more, I wanted to find other ways to be more mindful about how I spend my time – and I know my phone is my biggest time drain.

I decided to give up my privacy temporarily and install Space  – an app that keeps an eye on how many times I’m unlocking my phone, on what apps, and creates a summary of how long I’m spending on my device.

The app has a habit of sending you slightly passive aggressive messages – suggesting you step away from your device. Sometimes this is exactly the nudge you need. However, if you are lost, desperately trying to work out where you need to go, and running 20 mins late to a meeting, a message like this is enough to make you want to lob your phone into the nearest bush.


Messages like this popping up can either be really helpful. Or really, really not.

I’ll be honest – the data showed to me horrified me. One day I spent up to 8 hours on my phone – and  in the 2 months since putting the app on my phone in Feb and April 4, I spent circa 3.3k minutes on twitter, 2.7k on chrome, and 1.7k on gmail. There was also lots of time spent on Slack and Facebook.

Now there are some reasons behind the data looking like this. On one hand, I use my phone for almost everything. I use it as my map – and travel a lot for work. I use it as my WiFi hotspot when travelling for work – and as I mentioned I travel a lot for work. I also use it for work – and it’s been a busy as hell few months. The app also isn’t great at differentiating between those occasions when you are spending loads of time on a thing, and when you’ve just happened to leave your screen on (even on the home screen) and walked away.

I also happened to fracture my arm during the time in which I was trialling the app. Turns out having little to do than lie around while your arm throbs and stops you doing things like eat and playing computer games really increases your tendency to fritter your days away on social media.

Despite these caveats, the numbers are still much higher than I would like – and I have found that although I struggle to keep within my target number of minutes and unlocks, I am much more mindful about how and when I use my phone (outside of times that I need to for work). The app doesn’t quite create enough nudges to be a really effective way to help me reduce the amount of time on my phone, and has had the major impact of my demanding to use my partners phone to navigate us with when we go exploring together – however as an approach, I love not spending all my time in my phone, and deliberately noticing the world around me a bit more.

Let’s see how the next 2 months go – when I hopefully have fewer fractured arms.

I’d also love to hear if you have any insight or thoughts into how to help step away from your phone a little. Do you have an app that might be better than the one I’m currently using? Or another tip I could try?

New Year, New Me – Part 1

This year I made a promise to myself that rather than trying to introduce lots of ways to be a ‘new me’ at one time, each month I’d make either a resolution to try something new or a commitment to break an old habit. While I’m managing the first part of this promise, I’ve failed slightly at the second part – reflecting on each and writing it up. I’m finally prioritising the second part – and this is the first in a series of 12 posts in which I explore this incremental way of trying new ways of being.

Month 1 – Meditation

In January I committed to mediate for roughly 15 mins a day.

I used to mediate a lot – I love the idea of taking time to myself, have always found it beneficial and enjoyable when I do it, but rarely prioritise it. I fell out of the habit the first time when I got a job that requires me to travel a lot and means I rarely have a fixed routine. I fell out of the habit still further when I moved in with my partner. And the final straw has been the fact that I use my ‘pre-work’ time at present mostly for core exercises these days. January was all about forgoing that pre-work physical work out to focus on a mental one instead.

What was it like?

Incredible. It helped me re-find some clarity in my mind.

Somewhere over the last decade or so my brain has gotten much ‘busier’. I’m not always good at working out that something is bothering me, or if I know there are niggles, not always what that ‘something’ is. Meditation really helps with that, and taking the time out to create space for myself helps sharpen the way I think and prioritise issues.

It’s hard sometimes – and the brain is easily side-tracked and sometimes I find the 15 minutes rushes past, and has been absorbed by working through a problem I haven’t managed to put to one side. However, when I managed to pause my thoughts and let myself be, it is glorious and I find myself being much more focussed in most of what I do.

Somehow, I need to make sure I keep this up – and I say that, writing this in March having let my meditation slip over the last few weeks. Part of that is that I’ve been in pain (from a fractured elbow) over the last while- and I’ve always struggled with meditation when I’m injured as I find if I’m not careful the pain can be hard to step back from.

Part of it however is just that fact that I don’t prioritise mediation. Reflecting on it now, a few weeks after I stopped my regular practice, I think that this is partly because I find some of the emotions and feelings surfaced while meditating uncomfortable and difficult to face.

While that makes sense, it’s not where I want to be – so I have to find a way to make it a regular part of my life. A commitment to mediate somehow needs to be built in because if it isn’t – I’ll let it (and the awesome feelings of calm and focus that the practice brings) drift away.

Even writing this has reignited my desire to meditate, so I’m damn well going to commit to doing it 3 times a week, and try and make that work. I’m sure I’ll try to duck out of it – but I hope the realistic time commitment helps me stick to it!

How about you (yes, you who are reading this!)? What experiences of meditation do you have? Do you find yourself sometimes being apprehensive about meditating because of thoughts and feelings that surfaces? And how are you doing on any New Years resolutions you might have made?

New Years Resolutions

2013 was, as some people will know, pretty tough for me. The first half of the year was filled with deaths, others being diagnosed with cancer, and a handful of attempted suicides. Then just in case I was planning to deal healthily with all the emotional ‘stuff’, I filled the latter half of the year with physical trauma – for instance half-blinding myself for a week. I also tore most of the ligaments in my right shoulder and collarbone at the beginning of December – which has still not quite healed. During December I also managed to injure my left wrist – and there were days that the arm not quite attached to my shoulder properly was the stronger of my two upper limbs, making the act of trying to do just about anything pretty tough.

Last year also saw a significant break-up, which seemed perfectly timed with a bunch of my London/UK based friends moving away (who needs moral support anyway?), a rather nasty sexual assault (which is part of the reason I hid for most of November), and a number of more comical but still awkward incidents like falling down most of Tooting Broadway escalator on my birthday when sober, and a bunch of other things that are too detailed or dark for a public blog post.

And despite going from situation to situation, all year – far more out of control than I would like – I achieved most of my work targets and my commitments. However, there were a couple of things both work wise and out of work that slipped more than I’d like, or I didn’t do as well as I’d have liked – and then being rather a self critical person, I beat myself up for messing up.

The period of introspection that November and December have forced upon me (while recovering from the sexual assault and the shoulder injury), has led me to create a couple of New Years Resolutions. They aren’t about specific numbers or goals – but instead broader ideas which I hope can change how I deal with the world occasionally.

1. Be kinder to myself.

I judge myself much harsher than I judge anyone else in my life. I get annoyed at myself for failing (which basically means not being perfect) and I get annoyed at myself for not knowing as much as I think I ought to – which is often defined by some of the most knowledgeable specialists around.

I need to get much better at remembering not to judge myself too harshly in comparison to others. And I need to get better at letting go of my idea of perfection. Most of the time, I haven’t actually messed up as badly as I think. And I need to be better at stopping myself getting into negative cycles. I have a really bad habit of not letting things go – and getting into a cycle of beating myself up for messing up at something, or not knowing something – and then beating myself up for beating myself up.

Yes, I fail occasionally. We all fail. But, one thing I need to remember much more is that it’s OK if I do. Instead, I should try and learn from it, try not to upset too many others by messing up, and then let it go. It seems that by doing that, I can actually not fail at the next thing as well. I also need to be better at recognising my own achievements.

2. Let myself be more vulnerable.

I have a habit of making sure I have things under control and not letting go enough, and while this is totally understandable given my past – this limits what I let myself do now. I’ve worked hard to get to a place where I feel safe in life, and even now there are enough small things that put me outside my comfort zone on a fairly regular basis.

3. Remember my friends better.

One thing I really learned in 2013 was that I’m surrounded by a bunch of really freaking awesome people – although it must be said, it’s not always the people I thought were there. There are a bunch of people who when there were some tough times, just stood next to me and gave me a cuddle. Or let me cry. Or gave me the keys to live in their empty house for three weeks. And, I want to make sure they know just how awesome they are.

I want to grow in ways that I can’t if I keep holding on to all of the control and keep being scared of failure.

This scares me. A lot.