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?

On being vulnerable

I suck at letting myself be vulnerable. Really I do.

I hate being judged, told I’m not good enough, or that I’m wrong. I also really (really) hate feeling stupid. I know many people dislike being in these situations, but I get so wound up by these feelings that I don’t put myself in situations where I risk being told these things. Especially in public.

In private, and in one-on-one conversations (or even on twitter), I’m more than happy to vocalise and share thoughts. And the knowledge and thoughts I have has helped inform public debate, reshaped some of the conversations around some of the topics I consider really important, and gone into academic and policy papers – indeed I help write some of the latter. Somehow the conversations and emails leading to these felt transient and safe.

When it comes to something that feels more permanent, or if it’s a situation in which I don’t feel comfortable, I hide. Most of the time not literally (although it has been none), but I make sure I’m not in a place where others can criticise me. Why? Because I’m scared of being judged badly. And my threshold where that fear kicks in is rather stupidly low.

As such I don’t blog or write as much as I should, I don’t accept invitations to, and I rarely ask for help from others. And I do my best to hold on to control in all manner of different situations.

It’s stopping me from doing a number of things that I want to do, and it’s preventing me growing in ways in which I’d like to grow. And I’m really determined to try and change that.

So this year I’ll be doing my best to ask myself why I run away from certain situations (and the answer of ‘it’s because of my past’ isn’t going to be good enough, even though it is understandable). And I’ll be trying to reduce the effect that my fear has on me. This means, for instance, blogging a lot more – and not waiting for thoughts and ideas to be ‘perfect’ before sharing them. And I’m going to accept more speaking invitations, and force myself to ask for help more.

And this is all rather intimidating prospect. But, I’ll do my best. And hopefully, I don’t f*$k up too badly. Or at least in ways it can’t be fixed.

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.