I invite you to participate in what I call the “phone pickup challenge.” Why the challenge, and what does picking up your phone have to do with spiritual growth?
Constant interruptions and shifts of focus can disrupt our sense of fulfillment. We don’t work as efficiently, so we get less done. We get distracted from our friends and family in conversation, so we feel less connected. We have fewer spaces of true solitude, so we feel less comfortable with ourselves. All these things—and many more phone-related behaviors—can decrease our capacity to experience rich and satisfying lives, including our relationship with God.
Could someone accuse me of having a love affair with my phone?
I love my phone. But I don’t want to relate to it like an obsessive lover:
– checking in with it many times an hour just because
– neurotically needing it to be near me at all times
– feeling irritated and uncomfortable without it in my hand, pocket, or nearby bag
– being unable or unwilling to go any period of time without access to it
– experiencing lostness and longing in situations where I don’t have phone access
– wondering what’s going on and feeling a compulsion to pick my phone up
When I’m not extremely intentional about disciplining myself, I easily log sixty-five phone pickups per day (there’s this horrifying place on iPhones where you can see your daily pickups). I get glued to my phone as if I’m some sort of jealous lunatic! What’s in there? What am I missing? Help me! Be with me. Tell me I’m special. Ask me to the prom . . . Well, maybe not the last one, but this does remind me of a few high school obsessions.
So how do we stop our obsessive phone behaviors?
Phone Pickup Challenge
It goes like this.
1. Prepare. Follow these steps:
Check your current phone pickup number. (Google instructions to find “Screen Time” [for iPhone users] or “Digital Wellbeing” [for Android users]. You can also download an app that will count the number of pickups for you.)
Identify your most challenging situations. When is the temptation to pick up your phone strongest, and where are you when it occurs?
Choose a “phone nest”—a location (perhaps a charging station) you commit to placing your phone sometimes to keep it out of sight.
2. Create a goal.
Challenge yourself to pick up your phone fewer times. Making a concrete goal helps. (When I do this experiment, I normally try to reduce pickups by 50 percent.)
3. Reflect. Consider these questions:
Have you been able to reduce your pickups? If so, what do you notice as you refrain?
What subtle emotions move you to grab your phone?
What is it like to deal with those emotions without your phone?
Do you notice any difference in your ability to do sustained work?
Is there another situation or place where you’d like to challenge yourself?
When you successfully keep your new goal for a whole week, celebrate the accomplishment. You are increasing your chances for fulfillment, one missed pickup at a time!
Doing this challenge makes me more aware of how often I unconsciously reach for the phone when I feel a twinge of discomfort. (This literally just happened. I moved my phone so I won’t do this again.) It also makes me realize how lazy I can be about dealing with myself! When I deal with my emotions directly, I feel steadier and more grounded in Jesus as I practice a breath prayer or offer my current difficulty to him and then carry on with my work.
These phone pickup challenges also help me be more efficient. Ticking things off my to-do list gives me a wonderful sense of efficacy, but being able to rest better in the evening is even more gratifying. Knowing that I’ve worked well helps me stop dealing with my to-do list, even if I haven’t finished everything on it. All this leads to a more fulfilling day.
This is just one of many practices in Restore My Soul that lead to a rich, satisfying life.
Restore My Soul helps you consider this question: Could self-care be more than an occasional “me” day and instead an ongoing tending of my thoughts and feelings? Therapist and spiritual director Janice McWilliams shares practices that have helped her clients learn how to live a fulfilling life, even when times are tough. In Restore My Soul, you’ll discover how these same practices can restore your soul, too, so that, as you practice sustainable self-care on a daily, moment-by-moment basis, you can experience a balanced, flourishing life.