Less Texting. More Living.

This week, Vermont became the 26th state in the USA to outlaw texting while driving.

All of these laws are based on a simple premise: texting dramatically reduces drivers’ reaction time. Texting redirects our eyes and our attention. If only for a moment, it distracts us from the present reality of the road in front of us and transports us elsewhere. Obviously, this can be dangerous when driving.

But what about the rest of life? If texting removes us from the present reality of driving, doesn’t it have the potential to remove us from the present reality of any of life’s moments? Life is to be lived in the present with our heads up soaking in as much as we can… not with our head down transported away from our current situation. To that end, consider the positive impact on your life of texting less and living more in the present.

Give yourself permission to keep text messages from stealing your life:

  1. Give yourself permission to… not carry your cell phone at all times. Just put it away – out of earshot. There are moments in life that are far too important to be distracted from them by a text message. For example, I rarely carry my cell phone around the house when my kids are home. My responsibility to give them my undivided attention is more important to me than ANY incoming phone call or text message.
  2. Give yourself permission to… not answer every text message the moment you receive it. You don’t answer every incoming email the moment you receive it. You don’t answer every phone call the moment you receive it (especially when engaged in an activity of higher priority). In the same way, you don’t need to answer every text message the moment you receive it. There are very few people in your life who should have unrestricted access to your attention. And most of the people texting you, aren’t them.
  3. Give yourself permission to… never answer a text in the middle of a conversation with another person. At that point, it’s not just distracting you from the relationship right in front of you – it’s sacrificing any trust and goodwill that you have tried to build with the other person. Your actions have indicated how much you value that relationship to a far greater extent than any words that come out of your mouth.
  4. Give yourself permission to… not believe the myth of multi-tasking. I don’t believe the myth. You may be an exception… but I would point to distracted driving laws as proof for my side of the argument. Single tasking has been proven to be more efficient. “But I’m good at mutli-tasking” is just an excuse that people use so that they can text any time they want. Don’t believe the hype. Instead, keep your mind focused on the life right in front of you.
  5. Give yourself permission to… return their text message with a phone call. Texting can be very efficient. It can eliminate small talk, waiting for the person to answer, or going to a computer to send an email. But once a text conversation reaches more than 3 texts back-and-forth, it is has lost all efficiency. It could have been handled easier with a simple phone call. My general rule of thumb is if I receive a text that requires a longer response than one text message, I dial the number and handle it the old-fashioned way.
  6. Give yourself permission to… conduct important conversations over the phone or in person. The medium is the message. Conversations based on relationships, important business, or bad news come across as flippant when conducted via text. They should always be handled over the phone or better yet, in person.

Just to be clear, I’m not against texting. It can be very efficient and helpful. But just like everything else, left unchecked, it has the potential to steal your life right out of the palm of your hand. And I am definitely against that.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    I don’t text, at all. In fact, my phone doesn’t even receive texts (it’s supposed to, and it used to, but for some reason it quit doing so) and I don’t mind that at all. Now I have the perfect excuse that is true. I can’t!

    It’s so much easier to not text at all than it is to have to limit myself.

  2. says

    I’m with you on this one – I have permission to do all of them!

    When I read the statistics about how many text message teenagers send, it makes me wonder how they can ever get anything else done. I know that I wouldn’t have when i was a teenager – IM-ing people took up enough time, and that was with a keyboard!

    I use Google Voice to text more than anything else, that way I am at the computer and can still type at a decent speed.

  3. says

    Having become so accustomed to simply texting people back and forth for the last four or five years (at least) it’s been a hard habit to break — but I’m with you all the way — especially when it comes to driving.
    It’s a hard habit to break, especially sitting in traffic, but it’s doable.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  4. mokoko says

    I liked the idea. I use to do the same.
    Sometimes it gives me bad situations, like when I’m in a dinner with parents or friends and my girl texts me, I even listen the phone so I never answer until, hours later, I see the blinking led in the phone.
    But I do the same when I’m with her, I listen the mobile and I don’t care to read the messange, maybe later I’ll watch and answer if necessary.
    I would like to do the #1 more times, specially during the weekend.

  5. says

    I agree with you completely. I use texting for sending a quick message back and forth. (I absolutely hate talking on the phone – I do it all day at work). I don’t keep my phone near me when I have friends over or when I am out to dinner. I check it only once or twice a night when I am at home.

    Life is more peaceful this way!

  6. says

    Full disclosure: I’m guilty of this from time to time. Texting (and cell phones in general for that matter) is one of those things that just become a cultural norm. We’ve allowed this bit of technology to become indispensible. Life falls apart if the dang thing is not within reach. People forget that for decades we did just fine without it. There are so many examples like cell phones and texting that you can begin to throw into this bucket.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite, but imagine how more connected to life we could all be if we just allowed ourselves (or gave ourselves permission as you said) to walk away from it from time to time. Great post.

  7. says

    Thanks for putting this topic into conTEXT for us all.

    If we really wanted to communicate the old fashioned way, we’d go back to writing letters. :)

  8. says

    I don’t text at all…I just never got started and I don’t feel the need for it in my life. I do try to apply most of what you are suggesting to use of my phone (for calls). Remember the days when we were literally unreachable? There are many days I long for that again!

  9. Kaloian Parchev says

    This was really well written. I like your style and this is why I keep reading your blog. Keep the good work!

  10. Becky says

    Now if we can give ourselves permission to not text while in a conversation with someone else…how can we get others to do the same? On more than one occasion I have been out to lunch with a friend and her cell phone receives a text….she has to read it and respond right then and there. And sometimes texts multiple times back and forth….kind of ruins to lunch for me.

  11. says

    I live in New Zealand and this year using a cell phone while driving was banned. I personally dont do heaps of texting.

  12. says

    Something I learned about was “batching” my emails and texts. I only read emails and texts on certain hours of the day. If something is that important, they will call me.

  13. says

    I’m glad I never jumped on the texting bandwagon. Maybe I’m a couple of years too old to have been conditioned with it since birth. I do always carry my cell phone, even when I’m outside my own house.

    My mother always runs to answer the phone when it rings, but I don’t bother. A phone call — like a text — is an invitation to a conversation, not a call to a command performance.

  14. says

    I’ve never had internet on my phone (saves money) and earlier this year I got rid of my texting plan. I never used it much in the first place, but I decided I wanted to talk to people instead of text them. Being plugged-in all the time is not my idea of simplicity.

  15. says

    this notion of multi-tasking is pure crap. it is what distracts and negatively impacts me the most. and this is what i focus on when i think about minimalism. the ability to focus, on the task right before me. and nothing else.

  16. says

    What a nice coincidence!
    I shut my phone for about a week now and feel much more free than before. I don’t really know why, but everytime there was a “gap” between two tasks, instead of relaxing or doing nothing and embracing the present moment, I grabbed my phone and texted someone. It is really an attention grabber, removing your focus from the present.

    Your conversations become more meaningless, less special. You talk about anything unimportant and sometimes feel even annoyed by getting a message in the wrong moment. That’s not how I want to communicate with my friends..

    It felt great to shut the phone off, but I will turn it on soon again. At least I think so. I just realized that I could leave it more often alone than before. This improves the joy of my life enormously.

    Try it!

  17. Melissa says

    This weekend I took a couple days vacation to attend a friends wedding. I let my phone’s battery die. My charger was in my bag, but I didn’t pull it out. I simply let it be silent. It was wonderful.

  18. says

    Many thanks for this article — and the link to Steve Lohr’s NYT piece. You just inspired me to write a blog comment in response, for I couldn’t agree stronger on why I enjoy the freedom of leaving my BlackBerry in my apartment when walking outside.

  19. Michael says

    I send and receive between 20 to 40 messages a day. Mostly from my wife. When we are both at work neither of us can usually talk on the phone so we use it “talk” through out the day. Mostly just little ideas that we have, or thoughts about things that might be going on in our lives. It’s an easy way to share with each other things that we would probably just forget if we wait until later. However, I refuse to text while with friends or family.

    • says

      I think that’s different. What you and your wife are doing is sharing thoughts, ideas and things which enrich both of your lifes. Your description sounds warm, loving and inspiring (the ideas). I would not want to miss something like that, if it means not sharing these things at all.

      I bet you do your work even better because of those small but positive messages. It all really just depends on your perspective and intent.

  20. says

    Excellent points made. I’ve never gotten into text messaging, and maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t see how efficient a text message could be when compared to a phone call.

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