Last week I challenged myself to do a mini-experiment. I've known for quite some time now, how addicted to my phone I really am. I mean, it goes EVERYWHERE with me. A typical day would start by checking my Facebook and email even before I got out of bed in the morning. I'd check all day long, and end my day checking to see if any emails or notifications came through before bed. I was always reacting to what others wanted from me, not being proactive to how I wanted to spend my time.
My favorite part of the day is my morning routine (think: coffee or tea, meditation, dog walk, etc), but the "routine" wasn't so routine when there was a problem to solve via email, or an upsetting Facebook post that I read before I began my routine. I would feel like I had to respond right away, and before I knew it, my morning would be over, and my morning routine just wouldn't get done. I am super sensitive to how others think of and perceive me, so I know that checking email and social media shouldn't be how I start or end my day. The mornings and evenings need to be more sacred for my own well-being.
In an effort to make my time more sacred, and help me refocus on some productivity vs. reactivity, I decided that for 1 week, I would check my social media and email just twice per day. Once in the morning AFTER my morning routine as I prepare to begin work, and once in the early evening, in case there was anything that I needed to handle before the end of the business day.
So, how did this mini-experiment go? Well, if it was still "failure February" (one of our Trainer In Your Back Pocket® wellness challenges in February was to fail at something every day), I would have been a rockstar. Man, the addiction of this little device was strong. On day 1, I believe I got away with checking my social media and just email 3x. I had a bit of willpower to start off with. (but if you've ever tried to "diet" you know how far willpower will take you... and it's not very far). With a goal of 2x, I would say that's 3x is a win. But it wasn't perfect, so I decided to try to do better the next day.
I took away some of the barriers, and changed up some habits that I saw struggles with on day 1. While I use Facebook on my phone for business (think filming FB Lives for the TBP, etc), I couldn't delete the app altogether. But I did move the app from my home screen onto the last page of apps. Now, to get to any social media apps, I must swipe a few times to get there, making it more of a conscious decision every time I swipe. I become more aware of what I'm doing vs. just tapping the app because it's a commercial break, or because I'm bored.
The 2nd barrier I eliminated was the habit of checking social media in the morning while using the bathroom. No matter how many magazines I have piled up in the bathroom, I never seem to read them. I always go to the little electronic device with me. So, I decided to download the Duolingo app, and learn a new language! Even though I swapped one habit for another, I am sure that learning a language will benefit me way more than checking my social media feeds. My husband jokes that now I'll only be able to speak French while going to les toilettes!
But still, how did I actually do on days 2-7 of my mini-experiment even after eliminating these two barriers? Well, not so great. I probably checked my email and social media 4-8x per day (consciously). Which was a huge improvement over what I was previously doing. But every time, I beat myself up, knowing that I was way off my goal of 2.
What I learned was that, man, bad habits are hard to break. But this whole experiment brought so much enlightenment about how much I mindlessly "go to" the social media apps, or just check my email for the sake of checking.
Now my rule is: If I can't write responses right away (like when I'm lying in bed in the morning or before going to bed at night), then I refrain from even checking.
So, while I'd normally have said that my experiment was a "failure" in the sense that I didn't accomplish the original goal of 2x per day, I now know that I just need a more realistic goal, and to keep adjusting and adapting as my habits change.
While I could have just given up and gone back to mindlessly checking my social media feeds and emails all day long, because my week long experiment failed, I decided that it wasn't good enough for me. I liken it to many of my clients who set a fitness or weight loss goal, don't achieve it, and then give up on continuing the journey. Wouldn't we all do much better if we just re-examined our mini-experiments, adjusted the protocols and expected outcomes, and tried again? I know with fitness and weight loss, it's a never ending experiment, and those who continually readjust (having a coach tremendously helps this process!), get closer and closer to the success they dream of.
So, with this "failure," I've set out to re-adjust my goal. The second experiment is set to start now, and my goal is to check email and social media just 4x per day. I think I'll be better able to manage this goal, and less likely to set myself up for the same failure. But you know what? If I do fail, I'll adapt, re-adjust, and try again, until the unwanted habit no longer has a hold on me.
Have you ever tried doing an experiment like this? Let me know in the comments! I would love your feedback and any advice you have!
Abby Malmstrom, M.S. is an exercise physiologist with both her masters and bachelors degrees in Exercise Science. She's spent the last 17 years studying and building her fitness platform, Trainer In Your Back Pocket® in an effort to help clients all over the globe to achieve the fitness, wellness, and health that they deserve. If you're ready to improve your health through focused fitness, accountability, teamwork, and fun, join the TBP tribe! New members of all ages, shapes, and sizes are always welcome!
Abby Malmstrom M.S., a.k.a. The Trainer In Your Back Pocket, is an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, wellness coach, and "real food" nutritionist. Her life as an active duty military spouse takes her all over the world, allowing her to influence, teach, and connect with folks in communities she never even dreamed of reaching. Life's an adventure, so join Abby for the ride! It's time to "Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well, Be Well."