I need to confess. I’m an addict.
I get anxious as soon as I don’t know where my smartphone is. I fetch it in my pocket at the slightest moment of boredom. Every time I see something remotely interesting, I think about sharing it in my Instagram story.
Recently, I decided to do something about it. I’ve taken a series of steps that helped me reduce by almost half the time I was spending on my smartphone.
These are the actions that worked for me and that you can apply too.
1. Remove (almost) all your notifications
When is the last time you received a notification that required immediate action from you?
What would happen if you suddenly ignored them all? You would certainly be fine. You like these notifications not because they are essential, but because they send you small dopamine shots.
How to choose which notifications you should keep? I’d recommend to deactivate all the notifications by default and then configure on a case by case basis the few ones that really make sense to you.
I only activate notifications for two purposes:
- To communicate with my closest ones. For example, you can dedicate one messaging app to the people that matter the most to you and only activate the notifications for this app.
- For logistics, if I need to be reactive (for example, to meet someone or to receive a delivery).
2. Remove some applications altogether
Identify the applications that heavily rely on addiction cycles to keep you around. You have to be particularly careful about these categories of applications:
- Social networks and messaging applications
- Games, gambling or trading applications
- News applications
What do these applications have in common? They all have content updated in real-time, and their revenue is closely correlated to how often you check them out.
You can decide that some of them don’t really make your life better in the first place and remove them.
You could also consider that some of them could be used on desktop from time to time, but don’t need to be in your pocket. For example, do you really need to check work-related applications on your phone? If you’re a long-term investor, do you need to check the stock exchange every day?
3. Set a time during the day when you can spend time on your phone
Fighting smartphone addiction is all about taking control of when you genuinely want to use your device, instead of being reactive to the stimuli it gives you. You need to see your smartphone as a simple tool.
It doesn’t mean you have to stop using the highly-addictive apps altogether. Actually, if you opt for a radical approach like deleting all the social networks from your phone, you will likely fail and move back to your previous behavior.
Instead, choose in advance times when you allow yourself to spend time on your phone. If you’re afraid to spend too much time, define in advance what you want to achieve. For example, answering all your messages, or checking the few communities you’re interested in.
4. Avoid never-ending chats
Make sure your discussions have a start and an end.
Having dozens for conversations open at the same time is exhausting. Don’t hesitate to explicitly end conversations instead of letting them continue without purpose.
Instead, what if the main goal of your text conversations was to meet up or call?
Oh, and also—don’t ever join a group chat. It will keep your smartphone in a state of effervescence long after any interest in the conversation remains.
5. Make your phone less easily accessible
Make your impulsive smartphone checking a bit harder each time (principle of least effort).
Choose a place at home that is far from your desk and your bed. It will be the default place for your phone. Move your charger there.
Adding some friction also works when you’re out. Keep your phone in your bag. You will suddenly find yourself guilty if you take it out to check meaningless Facebook notifications.
6. Use alternate objects
Reduce the temptations by replacing some of the functionality of your phone with the dedicated object.
- Use an alarm in your bedroom
- Use a clock at home and/or a (non-connected) watch
- Use pen and paper to take notes
- Use a physical security key for double authentication
- Use a calculator
- Use a camera
- Use an MP3 player?
Make sure these objects are ready to use and easily accessible. The cost of using them must be lower than getting your phone (which is now charging somewhere far in your home, or deep inside your bag).
7. Enjoy idle moments and be present
I noticed that most of the time, the trigger to check my phone is not external (from a notification), but internal (I feel I need to check something). Very often, it’s just boredom.
Breaking free from smartphone addiction means feeling comfortable in these moments. Meditation practice can be a great help to observe yourself and reclaim control of your thoughts.
How did you break your habits?
Tell me what worked best for you! Is there something missing in this list?