Phone Freedom: 5 Tips to Free Yourself

Suzanne DaileyBlog, Self Care Better, Teach Happier


  • What is happiness, really?
  • Tips to free ourselves from the stress and constant connection of our phones.


Ask 25 people their definition of happiness, and I’d imagine you’d get 25 different definitions. To me, happiness doesn’t mean being in a constant state of shoulder shrugs, jazz hands, or guffawed laughter. That’s not what we are chasing because that’s not sustainable. We’re looking to feel content and peaceful, an alignment of our head and heart.

So toss in your run-of-the-mill global pandemic and our first attempt at distance learning, and the feelings of contentment, peace, and alignment may seem insurmountable. How can we possibly protect our time, space, and peace when everything seems out of our control?

How can we possibly protect our time, space, and peace when everything seems out of our control? Click To Tweet

It’s by remembering there are still many things within our control.

Since technology is a larger part of our teaching than ever before, we may have to get disciplined with our technology outside of our teaching day. Yep – I’m talking about our phones. Stay with me. Don’t x out yet. Let’s look at some small, proactive shifts that will help us gain a bit of peace, contentment, and alignment in our lives.

Get ready – it’s simple, but it’s not easy!

Phone Freedom Tip #1: Update those Notifications

Red notification circles, we’re looking at you. We don’t like seeing you constantly appear in the right-hand corner of our apps. Same goes for you beeps, banners, and alerts. You tear us away from what we’re doing or thinking at any time of day so we know what you are notifying us about. It’s almost become an unconscious act to pick up our phone and check for these updates countless times a day.

I mean, do we really care if Ann Taylor Loft is having another sale? Is it crucial that to know that our colleague started a Voxer account and is now Voxing at this very moment in time? Will it change the course of our day to know that Facebook proclaims it’s National Pancake Day?

If you answered no to any of these, it’s time to hop into those phone settings and adjust those notifications. Turn off the banners. Silence the alerts. Turn the notifications off. By doing this, we are literally silencing the literal noise around us while also controlling the metaphorical noise that is coming at us at all hours of the day.

Phone Freedom Tip #2: Simplify Your Inbox

People fall into one of 2 email groups: Ones who delete messages or move them to folders upon answering (bless us, each and every one) and those who happily, willfully let those emails pile up in their inbox and are somehow still able to sleep even though they have thousands of unread, undeleted emails (savages!). I understand that some people are hesitant about deleting emails because they are worried that they will need the information contained in them later. While this is rarely the case as most deleted emails are either spam or just promotional material, there are ways that Phone Forensic Experts can recover deleted emails meaning you need not stress about losing something important.

I want to decrease the amount of noise coming at me and can start with my personal email account. Since the beginning of this quarantine, I unsubscribe from at least one email a day that comes from an automated mailing list I put myself on years ago to get a 15% coupon code. Pressing that “unsubscribe” button at the top of my screen instantly feels so freeing, and when I don’t see as many emails piling in each day, I feel a greater sense of peace and order.

Phone Freedom Tip #3: Use that Timer

Ever find yourself thinking, “I’m just going to respond to a few emails and call it a day,” or “Let me just do a quick scroll and see what’s happening on Instagram,” and then realize you are logging off NINETY MINUTES LATER?! Gah. The WORST. You feel totally sapped.

To conserve my limited amounts of mental energy, I’ve started to routinely set my phone timer. At nighttime, if I want to see what’s happening on social media, I will set a timer for 15 minutes, get my scroll on, and then get out of there when I hear the chime.

When my timer goes off during the middle of the work day, I force myself to walk away from my laptop screen and go for a quick 10 minute walk or refill my water bottle to make sure I’m staying hydrated, or maybe toss a load of laundry in so I can feel accomplished on the home front. Since our days are not segmented like regular school days, my phone timer helps my days feel a bit more structured and my time feel honored, and that is a welcome feeling.

Phone Freedom Tip #4: Move that Social Media

This may not be popular, but this has been a game changer for me. Every summer I go on a “Facebook Fast.” The app is deleted from my phone on the last day of school, and I merrily squeeze out extra summer minutes because I’m not looking at everyone else’s summer, but rather enjoying my own. But this year, when the annual Facebook fast was over with the obligatory posting of my children on their first day of school, that little blue icon didn’t get its premier spot on the front page of my phone.

It didn’t get real estate on the second page either.

Or the third.

That icon moved right on back to the very last page of my phone. This forces me to decide with every swipe – once, twice, and three times if social media is how I want to spend my time and energy. And I’ll tell you what – there are plenty of times on the first or second swipe to get over there I realize, “Not today, Facebook. Not today.

Game. Changer.

Phone Freedom Tip #5: Airplane Mode or Bust

We are teachers, so by default, we are helpers. It’s our biggest strength and weakness right now. If you are reading this, I bet you are more accessible now than before COVID-19 as you give students feedback, answer parent questions, or help colleagues with whatever they need. Before we know it, our work day creeps to 10 or 12 hours, often going late into the night.

Enter my wise friend and colleague, Kate (@KateCarrollCB), who recommends we put our phones on airplane mode by a certain time and call it a day. My airplane mode time? 9PM. Every night. A hard stop. As texts and work email notifications roll in, airplane mode allows me to quiet any noise that could come at me from outside of my home when what I need to do more than anything is to disconnect and rest so I can show up the next day with a whole new batch of patience, humor, grace and kindness.

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It’s simple, right? Yes, but it’s not easy.

Constant national, state and district directives during this time are all out of our control, and that can feel overwhelming. But these small actions are all within our control and can bring us greater peace, contentment, and alignment of our heads and hearts. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like happiness to me.

Cue the jazz hands and shoulder shrugs!


Are you ready to give your phone a bit of a makeover? Try one of these small actions and see if it makes a measurable, positive difference!


Suzanne Dailey is proud member of the Teach Better Family! She is an instructional coach in the Central Bucks School District where she has the honor and joy of working with elementary teachers and students in 15 buildings. Suzanne is Nationally Board Certified, a Fellow of the National Writing Project, and has a Masters Degree in Reading. She is dedicated to nurturing and developing the whole child and teacher. Suzanne lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.