On Using Tech to Be More Present

I’ve been part of several conversations this week around being more engaged, more present, and more centered.

I’ve written, briefly, before about being present in the places we find ourselves. But this week I have more to add to the conversation.

I spend a lot of time in my car now that school is back in session, which means I spend a fair amount of time listening to NPR. While I can’t be certain, I think it was on NPR where I heard someone (a woman?) talking about stopping, being still, and marveling at what it is to just breathe and be a human being, alive today, in whatever place you find yourself. This may have also been a real life conversation, since I can’t find any reference to it on NPR.org. I might have also imagined it. It’s been that kind of week. But those words have stuck with me, and I have tried to steal a few moments, here and there, to just remember that I am in a place, and that place is a marvel, and I am a marvel for being there.

On Monday, I heard a story (definitely on NPR) about “Moment” – an app that tracks the number of times you unlock your smart phone and the minutes you spend using it. The story was about a project that New Tech City is launching called Bored and Brilliant – The Lost Art of Spacing Out. For a lot of reasons (which I encourage you to read the NPR story about) the project is challenging people to use Moment during the first week in February to track phone usage with the hopes of then encouraging people to use their phones less.

If I'm being honest -- its more than a "little" time taking photos of Remy

If I’m being honest — I use my phone to take more than “some photos of Remy”

I was intrigued and wanted to know what Moment might tell me about my own phone usage.  I have been focused on improving my own mindfulness/being for more than a year, and a big part of that has been not using my phone around Remy. Of course I do use it sometimes – I take some photos and use the email notifications to alert me to pressing developments in court cases. But I don’t use my phone when I’m feeding Remy, ever. And I try not to have my phone sitting next to me when we are playing. In any case, I was curious if Moment could tell me if I was actually doing as well as I thought I was in separating my digital life from my life with Remy.

Here’s what I found out:

On Monday, I downloaded the app at 6:30p after hearing the story.
That evening I spent 8 minutes on my phone, and picked up the phone 4 times. The app tracks where you are and at what times you are on your device. 6 of the 8 minutes were while I was at home, after Remy had gone to bed.

On Tuesday, I spent 83 minutes on the phone and picked up the phone 21 times.
A large part of that was two phone calls, one with my mom and one with my dad, on my drive home. Tuesday I got home and was with Remy and Tom after 4. During that time I picked up my phone 9 times, for a total of 21 minutes. Only 3 pick ups and 3 minutes were after Remy was asleep, which was disappointing for me to see. I hope that most of the other pick ups were to take adorable pictures of my kid. One thing that I wish Moment told me was what app I was using during those times. Maybe it does and I just don’t know how to access that data.

On Wednesday, I spent 84 minutes on the phone and picked up the phone 23 times.
Most of that was concentrated while I was at work, including one 20 minute stretch while I was driving home. I think I might have been listening to a podcast. I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember exactly. I am most proud of my work on Wednesday: I only picked up my phone once between when I woke up and when I put Remy down for his morning nap. After he woke up, I didn’t pick up my phone again until I was on my way to work. I picked it up just four times between when I got home and when I put Remy down for the night.

On Thursday, I spent 48 minutes on my phone and picked up the phone 17 times. On Thursday I was at school and able to work off of my ipad, meaning I did not spend as much time answering emails from my phone. 10 of those minutes were spent reviewing my usage on Moment.

Moment has some really neat features beyond just telling you when and how often you are picking up your device. You can set a daily limit for usage, and once Moment determines you have spent that much time on your device, an alarm will go off. You can also set “tiny reminders” at certain intervals that will go off if you have been on your devise for what you have deemed “too long.” This could come in handy if you were playing a game of, in my case, getting lost on Pinterest.

Unfortunately, Moment requires that you allow it to automatically track your location, which has drained the battery on my iphone like none other. For this reason, I’m going to turn it off until February, when I plan to join the New Tech City challenge. In any case, I can’t imagine that Moment would be something that I would use for more than a week at time anyway, since the whole point is to make you more aware of your devise usage and then cut back a bit. I am glad I tried it out this week – my usage on Wednesday was very encouraging, and my usage on the other days will be a reminder to myself to really be conscious of when and how I am using my phone.

If you are also exploring ways to be more present, what strategies are working for you? Have you tried anything lately that has really encouraged you in your quest?

7 thoughts on “On Using Tech to Be More Present

  1. I love this idea that you have come up with and I love that you have experimented with this! I’m gonna try it as well and make my husband do it too. I’m trying to be more present by using a daily schedule to get all of my work done before my six year old comes home so then I can just have family time.


    • I like your idea of a daily schedule and am curious to hear how it works for you. How specific are you in your scheduling? That is an issue I have had in the past – I can’t just tell myself to “get things done”… Unfortunatly.


      • So glad you asked Mel! I just wrote my first post for Rocky Parenting today and that is the topic. Check it out and let me know if you think that would work for you. 🙂


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