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About the Author. Sign up to the Puffin newsletter Stories, ideas and giveaways to help you spark young imaginations. Please enter an email. Unlock the phone, tap, boom! It was like a sugar rush. Now, the candy was gone. It was weird, but it was also weirdly… peaceful. My attention span lengthened.
Time slowed down, in a good way. My head was free. A month went by, then another, and another. In , a few months into my experiment, I wrote a story about the distraction-free phone, and a year later, in , I wrote another. But many others wrote encouragement. Lots of people actually tried the experiment themselves. Even if they only deleted a few apps, they said it felt great.
It felt great to me too. For me, an iPhone without distracting apps is an amazing device. Mine still has music and podcasts. I can read foreign languages with Google Translate. I can talk to Siri, and she often understands me.
My phone still has fantastic maps and a kick-ass camera. It even has a flashlight! A distraction-free iPhone is a futuristic tool that I control. And there have been costs. I lost my reputation for instant email response and immediate task turnaround. Without the tug of my phone, I drifted off of Facebook and lost touch with some friends.
(ebook) Jake's Safari
But there were rewards as well. Without infinite friends, I paid better attention to moments with my wife and kids. This, for me, was and is the most important reason to redesign my relationship with my phone. And I get it.
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Still, I really want you to try it. I invested effort in documenting and promoting my design sprint process. How much of my improved output can I attribute to the distraction-free iPhone? A lot, I think. Doing big projects takes many sessions of focused work, added up over time. Bizarro Jake is reacting to small stuff. Every time I eke out one or two extra blocks of focus, I get ahead.
Every time he stops to check his phone, he shatters a block. But if I can focus, I can make progress on blog posts, illustrations, slide decks, and book chapters — projects that matter to me, even if nobody is asking for them. This was the biggest difference in my work the last six years.
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But without those apps in my pocket, I have a competitive advantage over my prior self. Hold on. Apple, Google, and Facebook are all rolling out tools to help us control our screen time.
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Is the problem already fixed? In my expert opinion as an iPhone addict, these new app timers are too hard to set up and too easy to dismiss, with default time caps that are much too long. So what if Bizarro Jake cuts his YouTube time from two hours to one, or gets a reminder after 15 minutes on Instagram? Turning down the firehose a few percent does not create freedom. Take matters into your own hands and design the phone you want.
Just experiment to see how it feels. I recommend you go all the way and delete every distracting app, so you can feel the simplicity and clarity that comes from having absolutely nothing pulling you towards your phone. Remember—it is very easy to reinstall all of these apps. My reason was paying better attention to my kids. Your reason might be giving more attention to people you care about, or making time for a work project or hobby. Whatever you choose, it helps to have a reason because deleting apps is tough! Keep in mind that you can always check in on another device laptop, tablet, etc or reinstall if you really have to.
You can still watch a show or play a game, just add the barrier of installing the app each time or do it on another device instead. This can be the hardest step it was for me! Yes, some percentage of people — on-call doctors, technicians, and so forth — actually must respond immediately. But the rest of us should ask: Can it wait till tomorrow?
Two hours is enough to experience the feeling of freedom. But if you like, try it overnight, or for one day, or even a whole week. However long your experiment is, spend some time on the focal point you chose above 1 and notice the quality of your attention. Or, if all of this sounds too intense, start small and just delete the one or two apps that bother you the most, and see how long you can go.
Whatever you try, for however long you try it, a distraction-free phone is not a monastic vow. Each time, I enjoy the app for a few minutes, then feel a wave of relief when I delete it and get my attention back. Again, in no way do I have it all figured out.