The programming: Look at your phone. Look at your TV. Look at your computer. Answer this message. Respond to this prompt. Look here. Look here. Look here.
In the attention economy, your time and headspace are more valuable than ever — which has spawned a massive ecosystem of profit-driven companies who compete for it. Unguarded, you’ll find yourself doing their bidding — clicking, tapping and swiping as life goes by.
The counter-programming: Instead of treating life as an undifferentiated blur — an endless series of screens from which you very occasionally look up and go “Huh?”—strive to make a clean break between your (purposeful) digital time and your everything-else, real-life time.
I try to look at my phone sparingly, when I need to. I don’t use the screen to fill time, or as a safety blanket for when I’m uncomfortable. When I come home, I put it on a little stand on the table by the door.
I’ll look at my inputs (email, texts, Slack etc.) regularly, but only to make sure nothing needs my immediate attention. On my schedule, I’ll go through my inputs and zero them out. But I take pains not to flit from one thing to another like a butterfly.
And I never look at my phone when I’m out and about. I cringe when I catch myself text-walking. If I need to use my phone, I stop, take it out, use it, and then move on with my life.
Relocate digital from the center of your universe to a tertiary planet that you occasionally drop in on. Your quality of life will go up considerably.