Do you need a better relationship with your phone? Do people you love tell you that you spend too much time on your phone? Are you using your phone more than three hours a day? Do you suffer from “text neck”? Do you find yourself saying, “I’ll look at xyz for five minutes”, and then later realize a half hour has passed? Are you unable to watch a full length movie without an unbearable urge to check your phone during the “boring” parts? If so, you may need a better relationship with your phone.
Honestly that’s not your fault. Phones have been designed to capture our attention, to be addictive. At my zenith of phone usage, I was picking up my phone over 70 times a day and using it for over five hours a day! Once I realized how much I was using it, I tried a number of strategies to cut down my phone usage, but most of the ideas were punitive — turning my phone grayscale so it would be less appealing, hard limits on how long I could use apps. These efforts were somewhat effective, and I lowered my usage to about three and a half hours a day.
As you may know from reading this blog, I’ve recently been really into this idea of being intentional about what I do, rather than mindless and reactive. And when I applied that to my phone, I was able to get my usage down about an hour and a half a day. Even more importantly, the apps I used most changed from Facebook and Instagram to Camera and Messages. So I went from scrolling through social media to using my camera creatively and texting my friends.
This is the article I read that got me started. I only did a few of the steps but it was incredibly helpful to me!
Tactics for a Better Relationship With Your Phone
I committed to the idea of my phone as a tool that I control, and not letting it be the means by which programmers distract and control me.
I cleaned up my home page. One of the things I did that really helped me with this is that I cleared off my home page, and I only have 8 apps on it. Before, if I picked up my phone with a purpose, I’d get distracted by the other apps on my home page and end up checking them and get sucked into a time-wasting vortex.
I pruned my apps. I had a bunch of apps that I had downloaded but then when they required me to register to use them I abandoned them. Plus I had apps that I used for the free trial and then decided not to subscribe. I deleted all of those. Then if I had multiple apps that did the same thing, I tried to winnow those down. For example, I had seven meditation apps and I deleted six and now I just have Insight Timer. Finally, I deleted apps like Facebook that were not a net-positive for me, even though I enjoyed many aspects of them.
I turned off all notifications and badges (red dots with numbers in them), except for calendar and delivery apps. I usually leave text notifications on too. That’s because these notifications are distractions and interrupt your flow. It’s letting someone else control your day and what you do.
I alphabetized my apps that weren’t on the home page. This way, I’m more likely to be intentional when I look for the app, because I have to have the name of the app in mind and my purpose for using it.
I hid my addictive or especially time consuming social media apps. I put all of my social media “slot machines” into a folder on my last screen. Within the folder, I put my favorite apps on the second screen of the folder. This way I have to work a little harder to get to them. Plus it’s out of sight, out of mind.
I stopped using free apps that made me watch ads. If I didn’t value the app enough to pay for it, I deleted it. My time was too valuable to watch ads.
I changed my phone wallpaper. I really liked this step, it made it easy to keep my home page clean because I didn’t want to have apps over my dog’s face. Now when I pick up my phone, I see my sweet pup and remember why I changed up my phone organization and it adds a bit of intentionality to whatever I do next.
I take some deep breaths before I pick up my phone. Sometimes that’s enough to break my impulse to use my phone, sometimes it’s not. But a few deep breaths are calming and relaxing and I think they prime me to be more productive and mindful if I use my phone.
These steps have been really helpful to me, and if you’re looking for a better relationship with your phone you may find them helpful too! I’d love to hear from you if you’ve found any of these tips helpful, or if you have any to suggest.
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