Why take the cell block challenge?

SPOKANE, Wash. - We're slaves to our technology. Every ding, every text, every notification, we're conditioned now to pick up our phones. They're fantastic tools to stay connected to the world, but wouldn't you love to take back some of that control?
Are you reading this on your phone? I wouldn't be surprised. They allow us to do everything, from listening to music to connecting with friends and far-off countries. Putting them away for good is not an option; really, it shouldn't be. But, you might be surprised if you really started tracking how much time you spent reaching for and looking at your phone every day.

The research company comScore says the average American adult spends two hours, 51 minutes on their phone. Other research shows that number is closer to four hours a day. Many of us, and our teenagers, will spend most of their waking, non-working time scrolling and tapping and taking pictures.

The idea behind our Cell Block Challenge comes from the research done by journalist Manoush Zomorodi. She wanted to know why she wasn’t coming up with the same brilliant ideas she had in the era before the smartphone. The problem? We have so much stimulation at our fingertips, we never get bored.

“Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects,” Zomorodi writes. “You could say that boredom is an incubator for brilliance.”

Bottom line: we need to get bored.

So, she challenged listeners of her Note to Self podcast to take a challenge; a few simple steps, one a day, to take back some of the control our smartphones have over us.

20,000 people signed up to take the challenge within the first 24 hours. It was so well-received, she wrote a book about it. And, she gave a TedTalk. This fall, she went on a book tour and found that most of us are starting to feel the strain of our technology.

“The top two things I heard about are parenting [stresses] and burnout,” Zomorodi told kxly4 News. “The pinging – the constant pinging – is making people feel like they just can’t do the deep work.”

Now, she’s lent her expertise to us to put the challenge to all of you!

We’ll lay out a challenge each day and invite you to join us. They’re simple steps that anyone can do and you’ll really feel like you’re taking back control of your time. And, how will you know it’s working? Download the Moment app (if you’re an Apple user) or the Break-Free app (if you’re an Android user.) It will track how much time you spend a day on your phone. It also tracks “pickups” – which includes every time to tap that home screen to check in on your phone. Establish your base line, then get ready to take the challenge with us.

We’ll lay out the steps, which are really simple. But, you will likely feel differently and watch that screen time go down.

“Go easy on yourself,” Zomorodi says about taking the challenge. “Just observe. Observe your habits, observe your body and how it feels. Observe your brain and what it’s thinking. There’s no good or bad here. It’s just trying to make it work so we can all make it through another week.”