Your Phone Belongs to You, You Don't Belong to It

Rob Whittaker

How many of you have work applications installed on your phone? I’m not talking about apps that you are developing. I’m talking about Slack, email, Microsoft Teams, or anything similar. How often are you distracted by these apps when you are at home and not at work? By the end of this article, I want to convince you that you should disconnect from these services. Your life is your own; live it.

It’s essential to separate where you work and where you live. This has become even more challenging since we started to work from anywhere. This change in work practices has forced many people to work, live, and rest in the same space.

We can no longer leave the office at the end of the day and put some physical distance between ourselves and work. The change to work from anywhere has also made us accessible in new ways. People feel they have to be “present” for their employer to see that they are working. This displays a lack of trust between teammates and their managers.

How often has a notification distracted you from what you are doing? How often has this happened when you have finished the day and should be resting? Finally, has this happened on a device you own and spent your hard-earned money on?

This isn’t right. Your phone is your own, and you should take ownership of it. Also, your time is your own. Do you want work to distract you when you should be resting? I’m guessing this isn’t your ideal scenario. Time-off is an essential part of any creative process. As a designer or developer, be under no illusions that you aren’t in a creative role.

I want you to take the time to check what lives on your phone. Does it need to be there? I want to challenge you to remove all unnecessary applications from your devices. This isn’t about deleting everything. Instead, take the time to reflect on your lifestyle and mindset. Feel free to keep channels that connect you to your friends, but get rid of work-related ones. I understand that there are scenarios where you need to keep things. Some people need PagerDuty because they expect they will be on-call. You can still use your work computer for these notifications. I’m only advocating that you don’t let them seep into your personal life. I still have my work calendar because I want those time-related notifications. That is where I draw the line.

From my own experience, I find it much easier to switch off from work when I’m at home. When I’m bored, I’m not drawn to check in on things on Slack. I’m not refreshing my email to look for the latest updates. Instead, I appreciate all those things that are more worthy of my time. (In fact, I tend not to use a computer outside of work hours.)

This article is very tactical and talks about what you can do to help solve a problem. At the same time, I want you to think about your time and how much you own it. How much rest are you getting? How much time do you think about work when you should be doing other things that you love? Life is about living, and work is there to help you do that. Live your life.