A Piece of Advice I Wish I’d Included in My BookOctober 21st, 2019 · 40 comments
One of the questions I’m often asked during interviews for Digital Minimalism is what advice I’ve learned more recently that I wish I had included in the book. There are several candidates for this missing advice, but one I’ve found myself talking about a lot recently is what I call the phone foyer method.
This strategy was innovated by parents who were worried about the negative effects of using their phone too much around their kids, but it applies more broadly.
The idea is simple…
The Phone Foyer Method
When you get home after work, you put your phone on a table in your foyer near your front door. Then — and this is the important part — you leave it there until you next leave the house.
If you need to look something up, you go to your foyer and look it up there.
If you need to send a text message, you go to the foyer. If you’re holding a back-and-forth conversation, then you need to stand there while you do it.
If you’re expecting an important call, put on your ringer.
If you feel the urge to check in on social media, it’s waiting for you in the foyer.
And so on.
(The one allowable exception: listening to a podcast or audiobook during tedious household chores. Let’s be reasonable…)
This method, of course, doesn’t require that you have a foyer, I just liked the alliteration. The key is that your phone stays in a fixed location while you’re at home instead of traveling with you as a constant companion.
Many who have tried this technique are surprised to discover the degree to which having a phone with them at all times completely transforms their experience when at home. We’ve become so used to the persistent fragmentation of our attention during our leisure hours that we’ve forgotten how recently this behavior arose.
To be clear, it’s not self-evident that home life before smartphones was better. The phone foyer method will provide you the before and after comparisons needed to decide for yourself.
But if you’re like a lot of people who have tried this method and reported back to me, once you rediscover the improved presence, the strengthened interpersonal connections, the mind-settling moments of solitude, and the doses of boredom that motivate meaningful, but difficult action — you’ll probably become a believer in the power of the phone-filled foyer.
Another podcast recommendation: I recently joined Jia Tolentino, who wrote about Digital Minimalism for the New Yorker last spring, on Charles Duhigg’s How To! podcast. It was an interesting discussion. If you’re looking for more of my recent podcast appearances, check out my media page, I’ve listed 45 or so interviews from the past year.