The Cell Phone (Habit, Part 5)

In writing my habits blogs, I thought it most useful to talk to other people and ask them to tell the story of how they changed a habit.  I particularly love this one because it addresses something many people grapple with – the insidious nature of the cell phone.  As Ali describes below, the phone can be used for so many things.  As such, ferreting out the part of the habit that does not serve you can be an interesting challenge.

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One of the habits I used to have (and still have) involves my relationship with my phone. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this habit an addiction, but sometimes it feels like it. I wake up each morning and look at my phone, sit on the couch with my morning coffee and read the news, text and call throughout the day, post photos of my child, and end the day with a final glance at my phone. This is a habit that I share with many people in our technologically savvy society and none of it bothered me; until it did.

A few years ago, I realized how much time I spent on my phone. It had become a problem that I wanted to fix so I decided I needed to change what I was focusing on. The habit I was trying to re-learn/replace was to spend less time on my phone, not just for work, but also for Facebook, text messages, and reading the news. I believe I was successful because I focused on establishing a new habit in place of my old one, rather than focusing on NOT using my phone. For example, I had a habit of sitting in bed and looking at my phone before I went to sleep each night. To break the habit, I decided I would put the phone away (far from the bed), get into bed and read. Therefore, the new habit became reading instead of looking at my phone.

When I went through this process, it felt less difficult because I wasn’t just stopping the use of my phone; I was focusing on what I WAS doing (reading). However, it still took work and discipline. It was very easy to get into bed with the phone, so I had to focus on the book each night. It had to be a very conscious decision to put the phone away and grab the book instead.

It still isn’t perfect, but more often than not, I don’t go to bed with my phone in hand. After going through this process, it is much easier to be consistent. I don’t have to think about it as often as the new habit has become the default.

–Alexandria Goff is the founder and principal of Law Office of Alexandria Goff, PC in Rocklin where she focuses on transactional law including estate planning, trust, probate and equine matters.  ( http://www.gofflegal.com/)

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What I notice about this story is that Ali identified a location that was associated with cell phone use.  And she changed that.  So the location – bed – is a phone-free zone, and is a place associated with reading a book.  In order to enforce that, she leaves the phone far away from the bed.  Habits are associated with other habits often.  And they are often associated with places.  This week, play around with changing habits by noticing if there is a place that you commonly perform the habit.  For example, I wanted to drink more water so I created a habit of pouring myself a glass of water every time I went on a coaching call.  That way, I knew I would sit for an hour with a 16-oz glass of water.  This worked well because I needed the water anyway while staying in one place and talking for an hour.  It worked also to replace the coffee I normally grabbed before a call, which I wanted to cut down on.  I also created a habit of never leaving the house without a canteen of water.  Again, it works well because I am in the car for lengths of time and it’s the perfect time to drink water.  A lovely side benefit is that my son started emulating me and now we never leave our garage without a container of water each.  (It is interesting to note how other people pick up on your habits.)  It is the location – the leaving in the car and sitting down in my coaching chair – that triggers the habit.  Just like for Ali, sitting in the bed triggers the new behavior – reading a book.