If you want to reclaim your time, here’s what you need to do.
How often do you find yourself staring at your phone? If you’re like my former-self, your answer will go along the lines of “all the time.” No matter how hard you try to spend less time on your phone, your screen seems to glue your eyes to it. You can’t escape this magnetism. Phone addiction sucks.
End of 2017, Cal Newport inspired me to drastically reduce my screentime. Since then I’ve tested different approaches. I discovered the best way to stop phone addiction is by letting go of specific habits.
Here is a collection of behaviors you must break to minimize the time you spend on your phone. Every single principle helped me to reclaim my time. I hope it does the same for you.
Waking Up to Your Smartphone Alarm
When I woke up to my phone’s alarm, all social apps were only a fingertip away. Naturally, I let external information flow into my mind before I realized I did. I was among the 80% of smartphone users who check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up. I’d scroll through my Insta feed, read the news, or reply on Messenger before getting out of bed.
In 2018 I replaced my phone with an alarm clock. And this changed everything. Now, my phone charges outside of my bedroom. By using an alarm clock instead of your phone, you don’t need to exert your willpower muscle first thing in the morning. You’ll ease into your distraction-free morning. Or, as the humble genius Michael Thompson put it,
“Some mornings will be easy. The sun will shine, and you’ll feel good. Other days will be much darker. You can’t control everything that happens to you. You can, however, make some changes to wake up feeling a little bit brighter.”
Using Social Media Apps
I’m honest with you: I deleted all of my social media apps only to reinstall them a few weeks later. I needed to abandon them a second time until I finally stuck to it. Researchers continue to link social media usage to mental and physical illnesses like back pain, depression, anxiety, and even suicide-related thoughts.
If you’re trying to live a happier, healthier life, deleting your social media apps from your phone is the fastest track to get there. Removing social media from your phone will reduce the role these platforms play in your life. You can still access them through the desktop version. Yet you’ll soon realize you don’t need them as much as you thought. You won’t even miss them. In Cal Newport’s words:
“What we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore, play in defining the quality of our life.”
Carrying Your Phone in Your Pocket
One of the critical habits I ignored for too long was carrying my phone with me all the time. When you’re phone is within a hands reach, you can’t withstand the temptation to check it. Smart engineers designed notifications to capture and hold your attention. When I quit taking my phone with me, the urge to check it stopped as well.
Leave your phone away from you whenever you can. Don’t take it with you when you meet friends, go to the gym, or go grocery shopping. When you’re at home, put your phone in silent mode on the window seat. In 2020, being unreachable is a luxurious treat. Take it whenever you can.
Relying On A Mobile To-Do List
A big mistake I made was using Wunderlist for my tasks. I sabotaged my plan for spending less time on my phone by needing the phone to be productive. End of 2017, I started to bullet journal. It was the first analog To-Do list I ever used. Now, I can never imagine to replace it with a digital equivalent. The system is simple, minimalistic, and distraction-free.
Any other offline To-Do list will likely do the same trick for you. By replacing your mobile tasks with a pen and paper, you’ll have one reason less to take your phones to your hands.
Turning On Notifications
In 2007 my heart jumped every time I saw an envelope on my Nokia 3410. It might have been my first boyfriend spending 0.19 cents to send me a 160-sign-short text. In 2020, a blank lock screen gives me chills. Not because nothing is happening in my life. It’s rather a feeling of freedom and the realization that I determine when and how I use my phone. Stephen Covey got it right when he said:
“Technology is a great servant, but a terrible master.”
Using Your Phone For Entertainment
Cellphone companies try to turn your phone into a television. They make deals with Netflix or offer data packages when you use certain streaming providers. While this is good for the companies profits, it’s you who pays the price. Time is the most valuable resource you have. Choose wisely how you spend it.
By deleting all entertainment apps, like games or streaming providers, you’ll be living your life, instead of staring at your screen. In the words of Ryan Holiday:
“Because it’s my life and it’s ticking away every second. I want to be there for it, not staring at a screen.”
The Bottom Line
You can end your phone addiction today. All it takes are a few decisions:
- Get an alarm clock and charge your phone outside of your bedroom.
- Delete all social media apps and only use a desktop version.
- Keep your phone at home whenever you can.
- Start an analog To-Do list.
- Turn off all sounds and notifications.
- Use other entertainment options than your phone.
Instead of feeling discouraged by all the ideas about what you should do to stop your phone addiction, enjoy experimenting at your own pace. Choose one or two new habits until you find a pattern that helps you to use your time in meaningful ways.
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