Is your smart phone a problem or a solution? 7 ways to get the most out of it without it sucking the life out of you.

by Irene Soler and Hedvig Murray

In this day and age, we need to be always connected. We need to answer our emails immediately. If you run your own business, you always need to be updating Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to increase likes, followers, tweets etc. At least this is how it can feel. What's more, you can quickly get sucked into a world of cat videos and photos of people’s food, leaving little time for getting out into nature, or having time to see your friends.

We don’t like it, but we know this cycle all too well. Both of us are self employed so we rely on the internet and our phones to run our businesses. Irene works in Brighton as a web designer and she starts her days by listening to a podcast on her phone while eating breakfast, then sitting down to a day at the computer, and then some evening entertainment on Pinterest and Instagram. But as a result she was getting back pain and RSI in her wrist.

Hedvig is a permaculture teacher who has set up online platforms for her students, does diploma tutorials via Skype and writes a blog to share her findings. At some point earlier this year, she was waking up and checking her phone first thing in the morning, last thing at night and most of the time in between.

Why? Because it can be a great way to connect with the people we are friends with who live in different countries, people from our PDCs and other people who inspire us. We can connect with people we have never met, and help them to use permaculture in their lives.

When we started working together on HIP Permaculture, we wanted to re-design a new culture of how we could use our phones to do what needs to be done, and free up time to do other things.

So we set about doing a permaculture design on how we use tech in our lives.




From this, one of the design aims was to limit our access / reduce temptation and we found some things worked really well. Here are our tips:

Irene’s tips

1. Schedule computer free days.
I started with Computer Free Fridays. I would still do work by doing things like brainstorming on paper, making physical models, mapping out work plans or meeting up with others.

2. Take regular breaks.
When I have a full day at the computer, I set a timer to ring every 25 minutes (The Pomodoro Technique). This is a reminder to get up, move around and stretch.

3. No Facebook / No email.
I don’t have a Facebook app on my phone and I don’t check emails either when I’m away from my computer (unless I’m not near a computer for days!)

I am more productive when I am online these days and I have less issues with my back. I’ve developed new offline ways to work with clients that are both fun and unusual for a web designer. I’ve had great feedback from clients who have found this less daunting than online stuff.

Hedvig’s tips

1. Switch off your wifi when not using it.
I started doing this when I was living by myself. This is particular helpful as it helped me
kick the habit of checking my phone all the time.

2. Switch off notifications on your phone.
If you can’t switch off your wifi, you can switch off the distractions. I was constantly distracted by peeps and bings, which interrupted my thinking. Change the settings on Facebook and emails, for example.

3. Check your emails and social media at set times during the day.
I try and check twice a day. I check when I have time to actually answer the emails, rather than just keeping up with the emails. If you need to, add a note to the bottom of your emails saying ‘I only check my emails x times a day and if there is something urgent call me’.

4. Manage social media posts.
For my business social media accounts, I use an app to collect interesting links and then sit down once a week to schedule when I want them to be shared.
The results have been that I am now more efficient and I feel less guilty that I am not answering my emails. I have freed up headspace for other things. I feel like I have gained more time to do things that are really important for my well-being, like going out for regular walks, having time to read in front of the fire and also to meet up with friends.

Hedvig Murray and Irene Soler are the founders of HIP Permaculture. They aim to create useful and beautiful products to inspire people to use permaculture.