I’ve been noticing recently a number of people designing experiments or challenges that help them back away from constant, intrusive use of information technology, and help them find a more balanced way of living with devices. First is John Dyer’s January technology consumption resolution:

Sometimes when I pull out my phone “just to check the time,” I find myself wanting to check various apps and clear out unread items….

So for Christmas I asked for something simple: a watch….

[N]ow that I have the watch, when I got home from work the first thing I do is put my phone on the kitchen counter (turning the ringer on so I can hear it). This way, I’m free to play with my kids and enjoy my family, but I can still keep up with the time if needed.

By putting the phone off to the side, it’s a little harder to get to, and therefore less of a “temptation.” Of course, there are time when I do need it, and it would be more convenient to have it readily available. But with a watch on my arm, I have the tool I need is readily available, and the temptation I don’t want is just far enough away to make it unworthy of pursuit.

On the other side of the world, Australian entrepreneur Naomi Simson set herself the challenge of not using mobile devices in the presence of others… for 21 days:

I am often asked: “how do you juggle all the different responsibilities that you have?” My answer is be simply truly ‘present’ – turn off your mobile phone and be with whoever you are with… does this same courtesy extend to those beyond business colleagues, family and friends.

Okay I am taking a personal challenge for the next 21 days to not use a mobile device in the presence of others.

The point is not that one of these is really good and the other sucks, or that they’re things everyone should immediately try. The point is that they’re nice examples of nudges that seem to have a good chance to working. They’re relatively modest, easy to describe, and introspective (or whatever the correct term is for things that we decide as a result of reflection about ourselves); they combine a thing (or the absence of a thing) with some behavioral change; and they invite further reflection.

I’ll have to look at a few more and come up with some rules for how to design successful challenges of this sort.