Smartphones seem like a great tool for increasing productivity and getting a lot of stuff done, but in reality, they’re often the opposite.
Glued to their glowing screens, we think we’re doing something when we’re not.
I know that I spend far too much time staring at my phone screen. I dread to think how many hours I’ve wasted which could have been spent more wisely.
For those of you who also feel like you need to take a step back from your mobile phones, here are some helpful tips to help you fight your addiction to the screen.
Where do you spend your time?
Figure out what apps are sucking up most of your precious time. I use an app called Quality Time for this, but there are other apps you can use, or just look in your phone’s battery usage to find the culprits. Once you know what your biggest time-wasters are you can take steps toward eliminating them, and I mean that literally.
Go ahead and start deleting those apps. Some of them probably aren’t necessary and you could still access them through your phone’s browser if you needed to check them. There will be some apps here that you truly do need, whether that’s for work or your kids or something else, these are fine to keep, just be honest with yourself.
What do you use?
You’ve probably got some applications on your device that you either don’t use often, or don’t use at all. These can be easily deleted without worry. While this action doesn’t exactly keep you off your phone, as you’re not really using these apps anyway, it does free up storage space and help your phone work better for the times you do use it.
You’ve also probably got some apps that you use everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. For each of these you need to think carefully about whether it will serve you best to keep it or discard it.
For example: checking Facebook once a day on your computer will save you so much time compared to how much you waste having the app constantly tell you when somebody liked your comment or photo. Then, before you know it, you’re scrolling through an endless stream of posts and not being productive.
Again, there will be some apps you truly do feel a need to have, but if it’s one of your big time-wasters you should be careful in your decisions.
Can you use something else?
Our mobile phones are like Swiss-army knives. There are so many little tools and gadgets they can be used for, this is part of the problem though. We use our phones for so many different things in our lives, that we start to become dependant on them.
To break the habit of using your phone for everything, try going old school.
- Use a real alarm clock
- Carry a notepad and pen
- Wear a watch
- Try a paper calendar/diary
The greatest feature of the above items is that, unlike your phone, they won’t send you any distractions. They’re single use. You won’t turn off an alarm clock then use it to browse social media. You can’t get an email on your non-digital calendar, and, if you have a watch that doesn’t connect to your phone, when you check the time that will be all you’re checking.
Can I use it somewhere else?
Sometimes, you need a screen to do the things you want to do. We have emails to read and answer, we want to check in on our Facebook friends, we want to unwind and watch three funny cat videos in a row on YouTube, or look at our favourite websites.
The thing is, you don’t need your phone for everything. Just because there’s an app for it, doesn’t mean you need to have it installed.
If you have a computer, set aside some time to do the tasks that need a screen, then shut it down and walk away. It’s a lot easier to turn off your computer than your phone.
If you don’t have a computer, you can still do these tasks on your mobile, but using your web browser instead of an app. Just make sure you don’t allow the website to send you notifications, or you’ll be back where you started, continuously scrolling and not getting anything important done.
Do you need to know right away?
Every time your phone alerts you to a notification, you are distracted by it. Whether you pick it up or not. When you heard or saw it, your concentration on whatever task you were doing was interrupted.
Go into your phone settings and find “notifications” or “push notifications”. For every app, consider whether you truly need to be informed of every notification instantly. You can turn off the notifications for each app altogether, or select a timeframe in which they can get through. For example, if you know you have free time at lunch then you can allow notifications during your lunch break.
Does this action require your phone?
Eating dinner, going to the movies, spending quality time with loved ones, attending a meeting. These are all actions that usually do not require you to look at your phone, and I’m sure you can think of some others. At these times, when you know you don’t need your phone, put it away, in your bag, your coat, anywhere that isn’t on you personally (to avoid temptation). You could even opt to not take your phone to these events, or, if you must, turn on flight mode so nothing can ping at you in the middle of something far more important.
Focus on what is happening in your life right now. Pay attention to the people you are with, enjoy their company.
In particular, you definitely don’t need your phone when you’re sleeping, not only are you not sleeping, but it messes with your sleep cycle after you put it down too. So try keeping your phone in another room while you catch some Z’s. If your phone acts as your alarm clock, and you can’t afford a real one right now, then make sure you put your phone on “do not disturb” and only allow your alarm notification to get through. You could also try keeping your phone in another part of your bedroom so you can’t reach it whilst in bed.
Something else you could try is making a habit to not check your phone until you are ready to start your day, meaning you’re dressed, you’ve had breakfast and brushed your teeth, that sort of stuff.
Your phone can help you stay off your phone
Yes, your smartphone can indeed be used to stop you using it.
There are apps you can download which will tell you how long you’ve been on your phone, how many times you’ve unlocked your screen, even limit how many times you access a certain app or unlock your phone (except for emergencies of course).
While these apps can be useful for some, they might not work for others. No harm in trying.
If you don’t want to download a new app though, understandable since we just deleted a bunch, when you unlock your phone you could simply start a countdown for a short amount of time. Then you can check the things you wanted to, and when the timer rings you get off (and stay off for a longer amount of time).
Like Pomodoro, where you focus on a task for 25-minutes, then have a 5-minute break. You could spend 5-minutes checking your phone, then put it away for 25-minutes and get something done in the real world. You can adjust these times to suit your lifestyle too.
How do you feel about your phone usage? Do you use it too much or do you have a healthy balance with it? Have you managed to avoid buying a smartphone altogether? Let me know