Reflecting on my use of devices and media

Seth Godin got me thinking about my use of devices thanks to his post on “paying the smartphone tax.” As this is the perfect time of year for reflection, I began taking notes about my device use on a flight. I am glad I did it – I think this is the first time I reflected on my device use behavior as it is just something that has unconsciously evolved over time.


In the short term, it led to an immediate reorganization of apps on my phone to maximize positive energy and minimize activities that reduce energy. The other effect is simply increased awareness. I’m not sure what changes this increased awareness and thought will drive. Only time will tell.

Rather than give you just the highlights, I thought I’d share my unedited version below. Sorry if it feels long and all over the place – it was a stream of thought. As always, I hope it helps.

Purpose of the mobile
1. Take care of myself – (Music, Headspace, Fitbit, Audible, Weathercaster, Envelopes)
2. People – Connect with and record memories with framily (FaceTime, photos, Whatsapp, iMessage, email)
3. Find/do stuff on the go (chrome, google maps, uber, Amex bill, AT&T, etc. )
4. Learn by healthy consumption of content (Economist Espresso, news over email)
5. Create content when possible
6. Enable occasional bouts of catching up on social (LinkedIn notifications, Facebook notifications)

Stuff that reduces my energy
1. A long feed reading list
2. Checking email when I can’t clear it
3. Checking social notifications to get to social inbox zero
4. Switching across various social apps
5. Meaningless messages on messaging apps

Guiding Principles
1. Use phone in accordance to values aside from on-the-go stuff – to take care of myself, to connect with framily, to learn and to have impact by prioritizing content creation over consumption
2. Engage when I want to and not because the option is available. If it isn’t a HELL YEAH, it’s a no
3. Set notifications based on priority – calls – keep phone on silent through work day, texts – keep vibrations and sound, whatsapp – no sounds or vibrations but allow badge icons (mute groups that annoy) and no notifications on all others – email, messenger, etc.
(Align home screen to priorities)

Other good phone habits
· Switch off background refresh
· Keep minimal number of apps open

Purpose of the iPad
1. Myself – Kindle, Music, Tabs
2. Framily – FaceTime
3. Media – Netflix, iTunes videos

iPad use – Overall, aligned and good. :)

Movies and tv shows
· Watch on Netflix
· Buy on iTunes

· Relax! Especially when at home

General principles
· Avoid purchase unless you’re absolutely sure you will want to watch from time to time
· TV shows better value for money than movies
· Never ever feel pressurized to watch a movie/TV show. They’re great to pass time but don’t matter much in the big scheme of things. :-)
· Treat nature documentaries as educational :)

Music use
· Purchase and Listening: iTunes
· Discovery: Typically framily. Occasionally Shazam, iTunes Radio, Songza

General principle – have hardly ever regretted a music purchase. Great return for $0.99/$1.29

· Audible – non fiction books only
· Kindle – fiction, fun, memory books :) and non fiction when unavailable on audible or when easier to read as a textbook
· Hardback – when note taking is necessary. Typically for dense topics / hard to follow books

General principle – never question a book buy. However, make sure you’re thinking about whether the format is right for that particular book.

Laptop –  organize, study/work, think, email

Stuff that reduces my energy
· Frequent checking of social media
· Using email to procrastinate

Productivity notes / choices
· Maintain inbox zero, social zero – use inbox/social as means to make serendipitous connections and help where possible
· Avoid phone/skype calls where possible (especially for random reach outs) – request email correspondence instead. Use email correspondences to create scalable content where possible.

Social rules of engagement
· Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – use is pretty healthy. Largely for blog sharing and connection with limited/no time on feeds. Buffer for sharing interesting content across networks
· Clean up LinkedIn contact list as necessary. General rule – only accept LinkedIn invites from people you know – unless there’s a clear message in the invite. Facebook invites can be more random as long as there are mutual friends. Revisit if there is trouble.

0 thoughts on “Reflecting on my use of devices and media”

  1. Ok, so clearly someone is taking the principles outlined in Essentialism to heart. Thanks for taking the time to write this post. When I first read the book back in May/June I did cut back on the email and took FB off my phone for two weeks? I am now reflecting on my own consumption of social media, entertainment et al… I see something of a template iin the way you dissected each device and it’s use. Thanks for the gift!

  2. Fantastic post. I have also silenced all notifications, and moved all “distracting” apps off the home page. :)
    It’s interesting that Fitbit made it to the top bullet on your list of priorities for you mobile phone! :)
    I just built a social pedometer app that let’s you track your daily steps & compete with friends in almost real time:
    I’d love to get your feedback as a regular fitbit user. The cool thing about StepUp is that you can connect with all your friends on iOS & Android without having to buy a band and sync it all the time. :)

    1. Hey Pratik,

      Only challenge with me is one of habit. I don’t carry my phone with me everywhere (especially at home) but the Fitbit is an easy plug in.

      Thanks so much for sharing though. Will keep in one for the next trial :)

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