Rachel Taylor

Want to change a behaviour? Forget fluffy “intentions”, what we need is an “Intention Implementation Plan”!

28th February 2019

My New Year’s resolution was to reduce my iPhone usage, a decision which unfortunately coincided with the realisation that I am a hypocrite! Like most parents, I nag my kids about too much screen time, while (like most adults) I have my own little addiction going on.

However, I hadn’t really thought there was much to worry about from my point of view. Unlike my children’s screen obsessions which tend to interfere with everything from homework and exercise to having the odd friendly communique with me, my phone fondness is just a simple distraction tool for when the day’s jobs are done.

But the effects are not benign. As well as it being distracting, my iPhone lowers my mood and, unhelpfully, I gravitate towards it when not feeling my best, making me feel even worse.  Tired or stressed, my go-to is a scroll through pages of mindless, depressing content which is never more than a click away. Other things, that would be enjoyable and replenishing, like calling a friend, reading a book or having a bath etc, are sidelined in favour of the phone.

Resolved to change, I reflected, and made a heartfelt (if woolly) intention to “not to look at my phone so much”. Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t borne fruit and progress towards “less screen” has been nil. As we all know, the easiness of distracting yourself with a screen from doing stuff you need or want to do is all too alluring.

Then, earlier this month, I listened to an episode of The Bottom Line which discussed behavioural science approaches to changing behaviour. One guest explained Intention Implementation which can help us to make a change. Just having an intention is too woolly and not effective. To change, we need to hone in on the nitty gritty of why and what we are doing (or not doing). The implementation part is working out a plan that is detailed and individually tailored and owned. 

An Intention Implementation Plan is specific and explores the when, where and how portions of a goal. It has been successful in helping job seekers back into work. So, rather than, “I will send out my CV to a few companies this week”, it would be “on Tuesday morning between 10-11, I will send my CV to three companies who employ people with my skills”. The timing is important and needs to identify and take into account barriers, such as the school run, going to the doctor etc.

So re the iPhone, I put together an Intention Implementation Plan for using my phone less. It took a bit of time as I needed to think about what were the key issues (and solutions) which could prevent me from succeeding, most of which are related to the phone being a multiple purpose device. 

Issue 1:  Not forgetting that it is, afterall, a phone to communicate with people, I need to be contactable, particularly with my children and a few other key people.

Solution: I’ve bought a brick phone which I carry around with me during the day. I have realised it isn’t a big issue having two phones and numbers.

Issue 2:  I want to stay in touch with lots of friends and family abroad and like sharing pictures.

Solution:  I now treat messages/What’s App like emails rather than instant messages that need an instant response. 

Issue 3:  I browse the internet for “relaxation” but I often find myself down a rabbit hole which isn’t relaxing.

Solution: I’ve made sure other relaxing things are easy. The Turgenev has been ditched, replaced with a page turner.

Issue 4:  I need my iPhone when I am out and about to check things like costs of things/directions.

Solution:  I carry a notepad to write down what I need to do on the internet later. Directions, I Ask A Person.

I had to recognise that there are some losses as well as gains as a result of the Intention Implementation plan but overall it’s definitely worth it.

What do I lose? Being contactable by anyone I know (and may want to hear from) when I am out and about. Not being able to find out instantly about things I want to find out about. 

What do I gain? Less distraction, more effectiveness and less time-wasting. Not being contacted by people I don’t want to hear from (they don’t have the other number).  Read and relax more…. Feel happier. Sounds good 🙂

Good book on this topic: Happiness By Design, by Paul Dolan

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