How one simple change can give you 21 more hours of life every week

We're all busy. We all want more time. What would you do if you had 21 more hours to live every single week?

Finding My 21 Hours

The average smartphone user spends 3 hours actively using their phone every single day. That's 21 hours a week—nearly three full 8-hour working days spent texting, flicking through social media and checking the news. That's crazy.

Does this investment of time produce reciprocal benefits?

Over the past few days a series of articles challenged me to reevaluate my relationship with technology from the perspective of a new father faced with the challenges of raising a family in the digital age. The main questions I'm asking are:

  • How can I be more human, more present and more alive?
  • How can I model healthy behavior for my children?
  • How can I be the best version of myself so I can do the most good?

These three articles sparked a fire in me that I'm excited to share:

1. What I Gave My Kid Instead of a Smartphone

The first was an article called What I Gave My Kid Instead of a Smartphone that argues against giving childen smartphones and access to social media. The author talks about her undercover journey on an emerging social network where she saw 8-year olds posting "hundreds of self-harm videos that showed suicide options — bathtubs filling, images of blades, a child’s voice saying she didn’t want to live anymore."

This began a snowball of self-reflection where I started lifting the veil on my own digital consumption. For the past couple years I've been using apps like Moment that promises "Less phone. More life." to monitor my device usage. Given the average smartphone user is actively looking at their screen three hours a day, we've all got oportunities to have less phone and more life.

I'm chiseling away at my screen time.

2. What Do 90-Somethings Most Regret?

This article was yet another reminder that the most common regret of the dying is that they worked too much and spent too little time with their family. While holding my four-month-old son, I've repeatedly recognized my itching desire to reach for my phone and check the latest football highlights or check my email.

If I imagined myself looking back at this stage of my life, would I consciously choose to be present with my son or flick through my phone? Seems obvious right...

Then why can't I make this choice in the moment? Well, that's because technology is engineered to be addictive. Understanding more about how behavior works has really lifted the veil on this behavior addiction for me.

3. Six Years With a Distraction-Free iPhone

Immediately after reading his article I took my phone and:

  • Deleted all my social media apps
  • Deleted all news apps
  • Removed my browser
  • Turned off 90% of notifications

The first day I had significantly more energy, more clarity of mind and more joy. The second day, I meditated on my commute to work instead of reading articles. The third day, the joy continued and I felt so grateful everytime I wanted to look something up and my phone and couldn't because I didn't have a browser.

Jake Knapp is a different kind of Silicon Valley designer. In this article he talks about his journey with what he calls a 'Distraction-Free iPhone'. Having met Jake and trained with him on his Design Sprint methodology, I knew he was an authentic and good human being.

Having worked as a product designer at Microsoft and Google, Jake decided to become a time designer to solve the problems for how teams and individuals spend their time on starting new projects and living daily life.

Jake has written two fantastic books:

  1. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days — this methodoogy has completely changed how I kick-off big, thorny digital projects
  2. Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day — this is a real game-changer if you use a smartphone and want to be more human

I highly recommend buying and reading both.

How to Find Your 21 Hours

If you've read this far I encourage you to try out a distraction-free iPhone just for one day. See what happens.

Let me know how it goes.