How I saved 14 hours a week by making my phone less addictive.
Every free second I reach for my phone to consume content. Without thinking, I turn it on and scroll through apps, news, and social media. This adds up to many hours of screen time every week – and I want to change that.
Since I started a mindful approach towards the digital world, I realised, that technology does not only have positive impacts on my life. In fact, in some areas it makes it worse. It is no secret that apps are designed to be as addictive as possible and I don’t want to carry around a device that tries to steal my time.
So I looked into ways on how to spend less time on my phone. These are the ten things that helped me the most:
Part 1: Getting it out less
First, I looked for ways to get my phone out of my pocket less often. This way I am not tempted to spend any additional time looking at my screen
Turn off notifications
I don’t want my phone to demand my attention and I definitely don’t want companies to have a direct line of communication to me. I am the one who decides when I use an app and if I don’t use it just because I am not reminded by a notification, chances are, I don't need to use it that much.
So I turned off the notifications for nearly all apps. Only messages from my wife and family go through because these are the people I actually want to be able to reach me in every moment.
Bulk e-mail, social media, news, and texting
I try to bulk certain activities at specific times. I don’t have to respond to my messages and e-mails every 10 minutes and don’t need to read the news 10 times a day. By setting myself dedicated times in the day to do these tasks I saved a surprisingly big amount of time. I get the same things done – but somehow need less time.
Get a watch
I just want to check the time, get distracted by a notification on my screen, spend a few minutes browsing around some apps, put my phone back, and still have no idea what time it is. Sounds familiar?
By wearing a real watch and making it a habit to check the time on my wrist I am able to reduce the number of times I look at my phone's screen.
Get an physical alarm clock
My best purchase this year was a physical alarm clock (I wrote about this here). It allows me to leave my phone in a different room and I am not tempted to use it in bed. It also means that I don’t start the day by immediately looking at a screen. My phone hasn’t entered my bedroom in 3 month. It definitely was hard at first, but over time I saw more and more positive changes and I never want to start my day on a phone again. This purchase alone reduced my screen time by 1 hour every day.
Get a notebook
I love notebooks (in particular the ones from Moleskine) and lately I started to use a digital distraction journal instead of my phone. I don’t have to write down my shopping list, notes, and reminders in a phone. By using pen and paper I eliminate situations in which I would get out my phone. For me, thinking and capturing thoughts on paper is even more efficient than on a screen.
Don’t have your phone always on you
My phone is always easy to reach in my pocket. But why? Is there really always the need to be connected? It seems crazy, but just a few years ago my parents survived without having a cellphone with them at all time. And maybe I can survive a few situations without my phone as well. Now, when I go to the store around the corner I make a conscious choice to not bring my phone with me.
Part 2: Making it less addicting
When I am already on my phone I want to make sure I only use it for the purpose I turned it on for. I don’t want to get trapped by it and spend more time than I intended to.
Make apps hard to reach
After turning on my phone I often click on the apps on my screen without even thinking about it. I got used to open them right away and my thumb is already hovering over the icons. To counter this, I reorganised my smartphone. The home screen is full with productive apps, like my writing program. Apps to kill time, like social media, are hidden in a folder on the second page. This way I still have them on my phone but have a make an conscious choice to use them.
Delete apps you don’t need
If it is not on my phone I cannot waste any time on it.
I asked myself “why” for every app on my phone. Why did I install it? What purpose does it serve and does it actually bring me closer to my goals? And most important: do I have to have it with me at all time?
I try to only have apps on my phone I cannot replace by my laptop. Checking Facebook or my stocks – I don’t have to do those things on the go.
I deleted the reddit app because I spend to much time in it … so I spend the same amount of time on the reddit website instead. Some people might have the willpower to not use certain apps, but I am not one of those. If the possibility is there I will tend to use it. That is why I block websites like reddit or Facebook from my phone so I don’t have the opportunity to cheat. If you want to go be extra sure, you can let a partner or friend lock this setting with a passcode.
Black and white setting
By turning my phone black and white I instantly spend less time on it. Apps use colours to make them more attracting and to keep our attention. It is no coincidence that notifications of new messages appear in an alarming red. I set it up, that a triple click on the power button turns my phone into greyscale. This way I can turn on the colours when I actually want them and turn them off when I don’t want to spend much time on my phone. After switching back to colours you will realise how oversaturated your smartphone actually is.
These are a few ideas that helped me to reduce my screen time. I spend around 2 hours a day less on my phone just by applying them.
Having a supercomputer in my pocket is amazing thing I definitely don't want to miss out on and it has a lot of potential for positive changes – but also for negative ones. I want to be the one in charge and I don’t want to feel addicted to my phone.
For me, a lot of choices depend on one question: what do I want to achieve with my phone and which functions can I ignore. I want to start implementing a mindful adoption process and want to think about the purpose of every app on my phone. But a change like this cannot come over night and I know that I still spend more time on my phone than I would like to.
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