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Wearing a watch and changing habits

I started wearing a watch last month and it has changed my life. Okay, maybe that’s a mild exaggeration.

I’ve been getting very serious lately about a lot of habits I want to change. Through lots of failed attempts at change, I’ve learned a lot about what doesn’t work for me, how I stay motivated, and the particular strengths and challenges of my personality.

I think I have now created a system that will work for me as I strive to create a life of intention that is rooted in my values, not just compulsions. I often try to make 100 changes all at once and then (shocker) get discouraged when I can’t accomplish decluttering, financial planning, healthy eating, exercising, and more in one month.

A key component for me is that I want to be intentional to acknowledge and celebrate the progress I make, instead of just focusing on everything that I havn’t yet accomplished. And I want to focus on those small changes (like wearing a watch) that can move me forward, even if they don’t seem drastic.

official mets watchPhoto by Jamie

Why a Watch?

The reason I started wearing a watch was because I realized that I was carrying my phone around the house with me all the time simply because I wanted to know the time.  We don’t have clocks on the wall, the clock in my car is broken, and in general, it’s become a habit over the past 10 years to use my phone as my primary time-piece.

The problem with carrying my phone around is that I end up compulsively checking it. I’d find myself scrolling through Instagram and think, “Why am I doing this? I don’t want to be doing this right now.” The problem wasn’t just some evil monster forcing me to check social media.

The problem was me.

I had allowed myself to make a habit out of picking up my phone and opening distracting applications. I wanted to change that. And I realized that getting a watch would be one small step in that direction. One less reason to keep my phone within reach. One more reason to make me pause before picking it up.

Small Steps are Still Steps

Now, I try to leave my phone in a specific place in my home, almost as if it was connected with a cord (gasp!). I havn’t fully made the habit transition, but I can tell you it’s better than it was before. And that’s good enough for right now.

In addition, the watch I’m now wearing has sentimental value. I found my Grandmother’s old watch, replaced the band and the battery and now my 6th generation Texas roots are there for all to see on my arm.

Changing habits | The Art of Simple

This is just one small step that is helping me be more intentional about how I spend my time. Specifically, it’s about reducing screen time, but it’s also just a healthy disruption in other ways.

It’s often small habit changes that help us make lasting shifts toward aligning our actions with our values.

What small shift can you make that helps you be more intentional about screen time or aligning your values and habits?

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  1. Sarah Rudell Beach

    I haven’t worn a watch in ages, though I am in a school all day and surrounded by clocks and bells to keep me on time! But you are so right about how using our phones is just such an easy gateway to getting distracted. I try to change up my wake screen image on my phone to be a picture of something that reminds me to take a deep breath before I dive into social media, etc. It helps me be more purposeful… and hopefully not get sucked into another world!
    (Your TX watch is gorgeous!)

  2. Amy Rogers Hays

    I love the project name, Crystal! I find myself lost in my phone all the time when I all I went to do was check the time or the weather. And then I catch myself, turn off the screen and realize that I didn’t actually check the time or the temperature! It’s pretty amazing how our habits really are shaped by our enviroment–a liberating and scary thought.

  3. Seriously Sassy Mama

    I wore a watch to work the other day on a whim. I barely grabbed my phone. I am like you, I use it to give me the time. I use to wear a watch all the time, until I got my phone. Funny.

  4. Kim

    I bought a watch recently and thought it was a good idea, but I only vaguely connected it with loosening my grip on my phone. And now I will make sure I wear it. Ditto with the trying to do too much at once. It’s a trap, a way to self-destruct so thoroughly that I just walk away and NOTHING gets done, not even a little bit. Maybe I need to make a list of the top five changes I’d like to make and work toward them one at a time. Laser intensity will work much better than a buckshot aproach.

  5. Holly F

    A couple of months ago I got the battery replaced in my 20 year old Ironman watch for the same reason as you. I try to wear it most days, but it makes my wrist ache because I haven’t worn one in so long. I figure it will take some getting used to, but will be worth it. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Amanda Kendle

    Aha!! I think I have the same problem and totally need a watch too. I’m terrible at checking in on social media while I’m playing with my son and it never occurred to me that the main reason I’m carrying it round is because I need to know the time, but it’s spot on.

  7. Connie

    Love this. For some reason “responsible is the new sexy” tickled me when I read it and I almost lost a mouthful of coffee. Maybe it’s because for some time now I’ve thought that living sans responsibility is sexy and at some point it just isn’t. Like when you’re nearing 40 and your life looks similar to the life of a college student (looking in a mirror as I type that).

    • Crystal Ellefsen

      Sorry you almost spilled your coffee… but thanks for sharing. I admit, the name alone gets me excited too!

  8. Harmony

    I used to love wearing watches and had a pretty collection. When I went on maternity leave for my first son (he’s 12 now) I didn’t wear one at all, I loved not being tied to the clock and this was before smart phones. I haven’t worn one since.

    I miss wearing watches sometimes. You can be oh so more casual when you are checking the time with a watch than with your phone!

  9. Lauren Hanson

    My husband and I are thinking through the same things. We are calling it rethinking the routine.
    To be more intentional with my time and heart, I had to make a huge shift and just delete a lot of social media apps. Luckily on the iPhone it’s not hard to re-download them when you want them back.

    My husband wrote on our blog about how he needed to silence the constant noise of notifications. He would always be on his phone clearing away they constant red button that would show up when he had a new notification on an app.

    • Crystal Ellefsen

      That is a really important connection as well… all those “notifications” can be so distracting and waste our precious attention. I like that phrase, “rethinking the routine.” Thanks!

  10. Lauren Hanson

    Oh and love the Texas watch! So cool! #Houston!

  11. Katie Harding

    I wear a watch and still find myself looking at my phone all the time, I am going to try to be better about putting my phone in my purse and NOT being so distracted by it all the time, unfortunately I think we are all guilty of having a phone addiction.

  12. Michele

    I am going on vacation tomorrow. The plan is to log off of Facebook and wait until after the vacation to share 🙂

  13. Liz

    You’re absolutely right that little things can make a big difference. On a completely different theme, I’m self-employed and have recently taken to working in different places, both around the house and out and about. It’s ridiculous how much more productive my brain seems to have become just from the change of scene!

  14. Desiree Fawn

    Whoa. You’re so right. I depend on my iPhone to tell me the time (and my schedule and, you know, my partner’s phone numbers — whoops).

    Perhaps it’s time to get a watch! 🙂 To start!

  15. Sharon Holbrook

    Love this approach, so sensible! (p.s. I want a watch too – perfect for checking time, of course – but I also admit it’s because there are so many darn cute watches!)

  16. michelle

    I am a watch wearer and always feel like it’s a little silly in this age of cell phones but you’ve described something that I’ve noticed here myself. When I don’t wear a watch I drag my phone around with me, too. And check things on it compulsively, too.
    I’m trying to leave it connected to the wall charger when I’m at home but I do find I’m missing texts where people want to connect with me or drop by my house. I guess I need to find a way around that little hiccup. Otherwise I’m 100% for watch wearing.

  17. Pam

    The watch idea is brilliant. Every single time I pick up my phone I check my email. I have a phone cover that holds my credit cards, which at the time I thought was the best idea in the world, but now when I am in the check out lane and get ready to pay ….. I check my email first! It is insane.


  18. Guest

    Have you ever read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin? It isn’t about responsibility but it’s the same concept of choosing a theme a month. It’s so simple but genius! It’s overwhelming to try to you know, be perfect, in one month 😛 but deciding on an area to work on each month is way more doable and it also gives you some freedom to see what is working and what isn’t. Great point on wearing a watch…I’m very time conscious, too. 🙂

    • Crystal

      Someone mentioned it to me when I was telling them about this project. Her book seems fun, but definitely a different angle. I love that there’s lots of people trying their own systems to improve life.

  19. Liz S.

    It hasn’t been easy, but I deleted Facebook, Instagram and all other social media apps from my phone. It had become all to easy to spend a few minutes checking those sites when I had down time, and I realized that I could better use that time either connecting in real time with the people around me (like starting a conversation with the other mom at school pick-up) or just thinking, breathing deeply, or even stretching. I also realized that if I spent 15 minutes over the course of a day on Facebook or Instagram, that equaled nearly 2 hours a week of time that I could spend doing other things — calling a friend, reading a book, etc. Like your watch, deleting these apps made me more conscious of how I was spending my time and has helped me make sure I am spending my time in a way that works with my values.

    • Crystal

      I have definitely done the same thing from time to time. For a while there, I was even deleting them every weekend! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Deborah P

    I like the idea of concentrating on just one thing at a time rather than my usual of thinking I can re-organize my whole life in a weekend. But I really do need to focus on a number of things now, so I think I’ll try it for a week at a time. One week to really focus on eating right, one week to focus on decluttering, one week to focus on exercise, etc. I can still do some little things (like go to the grocery store rather than plan on eating fast food for lunch each day) during the week my focus is on something other than eating right. I think at the end of one month, I can look at what I’ve accomplished in each of the weeks and see if I want to continue week about or extend the focus for a longer period of time. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Crystal

      Great idea, Deborah. I think the key is really finding what works for YOU. And of course celebrating your accomplishments, instead of just jumping tot he next thing. It will totally help you not give up, when you can see what you’ve done well!

  21. Susan

    Wait…that’s not Quartz…that’s El Paso! 😉

    • Crystal

      ha ha! Awesome. 🙂

  22. Alison

    Great strategy! It reminds me of the goals in Happier at Home. TFS!

  23. Kate W.

    Thank you for this! I am exactly the same with trying to change all of my bad habits (or sharpening up not so bad ones) at the same time and feeling frustrated! And the watch thing! I know this and just said to my husband “I need a watch” (although I didn’t confess my total reasoning which is exactly the same as yours. Really Instgram? I just looked ! Very frustrating! Good thing I have a birthday coming up! 🙂

  24. Kim

    This is great & OH SO TRUE!! I need to get my battery replaced in my watch my grandparents gave me for my graduation! a ‘few’ years ago. 😉

  25. Diane McElwain

    A great idea to keep from checking your phone all day! Maybe you should buy at least one clock for your house. Or you could wait until your daughter makes you one in Tech in Jr Hi. That’s how I got one in my office!

    • Crystal Ellefsen

      Yes. We totally need to put a clock up. We moved a few months ago and have no art on the walls or anything… but maybe a clock should be priority. 🙂

  26. Angie

    I needed to read this today! With 3 kids who are constantly asking to play on my phone, iPad, computer, or Wii, it doesn’t look good when Mom tells them no and then picks up her phone and is glued to Facebook or Pintrest. We place limits on our children’s screen time, why not us adults too!?

  27. Pam

    I started wearing a watch two years ago, my partner bought one for my birthday, it is completely made from wood. I get more compliments on that watch. And yes, it makes you remember how to tell time and. It depend on your phone:)

    • Crystal Ellefsen

      Sounds beautiful! Can you send a link to the type of watch? I’d love to check it out.

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