he Guardian newspaper in Britain recently printed a list called “100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying.”
Some of these tips made a lot of sense. For example: “Eat meat once a week, max. Ideally less.” This is good advice. If everyone in the world ate less meat, prices would drop and I’d be able to eat more.
But other tips were somewhat questionable, such as this: “Buy a plant. Think you’ll kill it? Buy a fake one.” I do not like fake plants. Even if they look real, you cannot have any meaningful conversations with them.
What I found most interesting about the tips is that several of them pertained to cellphones, those devices that have become such necessities to many of us. We spend more time touching our cellphones than anything else, even when the lights are out in the bedroom.
Here’s the first cellphone-related tip: “Send a voice note instead of a text; they sound like personal mini podcasts.” I’ve never sent a voice note, but if I did, I would say this: “Please leave a good review for my mini podcast.”
The second phone-related tip is to “set time limits for your apps.” This is good advice, especially for people who spend too much time on a single app, such as Facebook or Twitter. Putting a time limit on Facebook is the next best thing to deleting it completely.
The third tip is to “go for a walk without your phone.” This tip is related to a fourth tip: “Take out your headphones when walking – listen to the world.” Most people who use headphones or earphones are listening to something on their cellphones. This isn’t an easy tip to follow, because many of us have fallen into the habit of taking our phones everywhere, even to the bathroom. We believe that mobiles should always be mobile.
When I go for a walk or run, I take my phone with me, just in case there’s an emergency at home and someone needs to reach me. But from now on, I’m just going to make an announcement before I leave: “I’m going out without my phone. If there’s an emergency, please save your own lives.”
The fifth tip is to “sleep with your phone in a different room (and buy an alarm clock).” This tip can be easily misunderstood. I can picture a husband saying to his wife, “Sweetheart, have a good night! I’m going to sleep with my phone in a different room.”
This is not a tip for young people. After they’ve spent years using their cellphones as alarm clocks, it’s unrealistic to expect them to go out and buy one of those old-style alarm clocks that their parents used. You might as well ask them to listen to Lata Mangeshkar on a cassette player.
The sixth tip is related to the fifth: “Go to bed earlier – but don’t take your phone with you.” This is good advice, but very hard to follow, especially for me. Not only do I use my cellphone as an alarm clock, I often fall asleep while listening to a podcast on my phone. So many people are producing podcasts these days, and many of them are extremely good, even excellent, at putting me to sleep. I highly recommend them.
The seventh tip is to “switch your phone off on holiday (or at least delete your work email app).” Indeed, you don’t want your boss calling or emailing you while you’re enjoying your well-deserved time off. Just make sure you don’t get a voice note that says, “I’ve decided to give you even more time off. No need to return to work.”
The final tip is one that’s especially important for people who eat with friends or family members: “Don’t look at your phone at dinner.” When you have company at the dining table, it’s considered disrespectful to look at a phone until they do.