Social media is a lot more habitual than I thought. Just a month ago, I could easily spend more than a couple of hours each day on social media – when waking up, when eating breakfast, when eating lunch, when bored in endless status update meetings, when playing with my kids (no, really 😦 ), before falling asleep, when waking up in the middle of the night…
Today, I spend no more than 10-20 minutes per day (excluding messaging apps like Slack, Messenger, etc), and often times I don’t check Instagram or Facebook at all for several consecutive days. That’s a big shift in just a month – and the change wasn’t something radical like shutting down my social media accounts or removing the apps from my phone. It was a lot simpler than that – all it took was to change a very simple habit.
I got the idea from reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, a book focusing on how to change your life by changing the small habits and improving iteratively from there. One of the fundamental principles is to change your environment to make the good habits easier to do, and the bad habits harder to do. For example, if you think you watch too much TV, try putting away the remote control in a drawer and unplugging the TV after you turn it off. That way you introduce just a bit of extra friction the next time you’re about to turn on the TV, and maybe that’s all you need to think twice.
The small hack I did to cut down my social media habits was simply to remove the shortcuts to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my phone’s home screen and place them in a sub-folder under the Apps screen instead. I then placed more useful things on the home screen for things I want to use more, such as Kindle and Storytel (a Swedish audiobook service).
That’s it! That tiny little change made me almost stop using social media, and I’ve kept that going for a month now so it’s not just a fad. I’ve also finished reading four books during that same time. One fascinating change is that I no longer reach for my phone the first thing when I’m feeling bored, like when waiting in a long line. Instead, I’m actually thinking about things, like reflecting on something that happened earlier, or a decision I’m thinking about making. I’m pretty amazed by how simple this transformation was, and I feel like I got my life back.
I’m already thinking about what other habits I could easily form with similar techniques. One idea I have is to do ten pushups before every work meeting. That should result in about 50-100 pushups per day, which is a lot better than not working out at all. From there, once that habit is formed, I can hopefully expand and add on other things. Before I know it, I may be one of those people who work out regularly (again). 😉