“I just picked up my phone and I forgot what I was going to do”

Despite how much we all try to use our phones less, I think we all fall into the trap of picking up our phones when we’re bored or when we want something to do. Training ourselves to hold off and do something else – like people-watching, daydreaming, or just processing the events of our day – is a topic in itself, but I wanted to address the phone being both a distraction and a productivity tool at the same time.

I know I’m not the only person who picks up their phone to do a task and then gets caught up in something else. I’ve heard it before. “I just picked up my phone and forgot what I was going to do.”

I don’t really think that we forgot what to do in that moment in time. We got distracted by the very thing that was supposed to help us complete whatever task we had in mind. I don’t even use notifications much on my phone (mostly for text messages, and even then, many of my conversations are silenced), but many times I pick up my phone to do something and I end up habitually opening my email to check it manually, or read up on Slack messages from work.

Rather than feeling exasperated about it and thinking I’ll remember it later, I’ve actually taken to putting the phone back down, or immediately stopping what I’m doing, and trying to remember why I picked up the phone in the first place. I’ve found that taking a moment to simply pause has been really effective in jogging my memory, and after about half a minute, I can remember the thing I was going to do. It doesn’t take long, even if those thirty seconds sometimes feel like a very long time, and even if I feel pretty bad about forgetting.

I feel that continuing to swim in the underwater treasure trove of our smartphones and letting our minds be occupied doesn’t help the problem. It makes us serve our phones instead of our phones serving us.

I don’t mind a mindless browse through Instagram, or having a text conversation with a friend, or browsing eBay for some second-hand gems. I don’t think anyone does! But I think that the action of pausing to remember what we really meant to do on our phones is actually a practice in intentionality, even if the rest of your phone usage might not be extremely mindful or intentional, and even if you have no intention (ha!) of making a change to the habits you currently have.

Next time you forget why you grabbed your phone, I hope you think about stopping and pausing until the moment you remember.

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I do the same thing – all the time. You know what gets on my nerves? How I switch back and forth between apps because I can’t decide how I want to cure my boredom. One moment I’m like, “I need a break from my phone”, then the next moment I’m scrolling away. I miss those days when life was more simple and we didn’t have smartphones.

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