By: Hina Khan
“Do more things that make you forget about checking your phone,” they say. Indeed, when I was hiking in the mountains with my family, I picked my phone only to take another breathtaking picture. But that’s not what happens every day.
I often find myself mindlessly scrolling Facebook though initially, I took my phone only to check the weather. Sometimes I grab my phone without any reason at all. Everyone around me is doing the same.
An average smartphone owner checks their device 47 times per day. 85% of users do this even while talking to their friends and family. In 2020, an average user spent 5 hours per day on mobile. Just think about those numbers!
Fortunately, I don’t keep up with this trend. On average, I spend 25-35 minutes per day on my iPhone. Though sometimes I find myself diving into that phone checking loop, most of the time I can control it. Here are the tips that help me use my smartphone less and avoid phone addiction.
1. Pause to think before picking up your phone
Every time you’re about to unlock your phone, take a moment to think about why you are doing this right now. Do you need to perform a particular task like scanning a document or texting your boss? Then, fulfill this task and put your phone away.
But sometimes the reasons for checking your phone are much deeper than you think. For example, I’m not great at networking and feel uncomfortable in a large room of unfamiliar people. Instead of starting small talk with someone, I just stare at my phone pretending I’m busy. When I realized this habit, I decided to attend more meetups to improve my networking skills while intentionally keeping my phone away.
Here’s how you can analyze the true reasons behind picking your phone:
“When I feel or want to X, I take my phone to Y so I can Z.”
For example, “When I feel lonely, I grab my phone to check Instagram so I can feel connected with my friends.”
When you find the real reason behind checking your phone, it’s easier to control yourself. If you feel lonely, you can call your family or have a chat with a colleague. If you feel bored, you can go for a short walk or read a book. There’s a lot of things to do besides staring at screen!
2. Analyze how you use your phone and set limits
With iOS 12, Apple has introduced the Screen Time feature which shows how much time you spend on your phone, what apps you use the most, and how often do you pick up your device. To see the report, go to Settings > Screen Time. Android users can try Digital Wellbeing which works similarly.
If particular apps take too much of your time, you can set daily limits for them. When you reach a limit, your iPhone notifies you about it. Though the limit isn’t hard to ignore, it creates an additional barrier between you and the apps you use too much.
3. Get rid of distracting apps
Sometimes you just can’t resist tapping a colorful icon on the Home screen. This is usually the case for games and social media apps. How can one avoid this temptation? Move all addictive apps to the second page where it’s harder to open them spontaneously. You can also group such apps in folders like Games or Social so they’re always one extra tap away from you.
I have no Facebook app on my phone. Instead, I check the newsfeed in Safari. It’s less convenient than in the native app so I spend significantly less time there. Plus, the browser tab doesn’t bombard me with notifications. After visiting Facebook, I always try to close its tab in Safari, so I have some extra work next time.
I also try to stay away from my phone after posting anything on social media. It’s so tempting to check your post every 5 minutes to see how many likes and comments you already have! For this reason, I rarely post things that involve a lengthy discussion. That’s how my laziness to check and answer the comments saves me from snagging my phone too often
4. Minimize notifications
When a new app asks if it can send me notifications, I usually say, ”No.” I only turn on notifications for messaging apps and email. If your app has flexible notification options, it’s a good idea to play around with them. Notification badges are another source of distraction. It’s hard not to tap an app icon when you see that red number on it. For this reason, and it’s a big one, I try to turn off badges wherever possible.
5. Keep your phone literally away
It’s easier to forget about checking your phone when it’s physically out of sight and reach. After coming home, I just leave the phone in my bag and put it in the cupboard. Nothing terrible ever happens. I’ll hear an urgent call or notification, and at the same time, I can cope with most of the sudden urges to check my phone. Who wants to get up and walk to the other part of one’s apartment all the time?
The same trick can help you at work, school, and family dinners. When there’s no phone on the table in front of you, it’s much easier to focus on the things you need to do, be it finishing some work or chatting with your loved ones.
6. Don’t use your phone before going to bed
Constantly checking your phone throughout the day ruins your productivity, while staring at the screen before bedtime can affect the quality of sleep.
I try to ditch my phone at least a couple of hours before going to bed. It hurts when I break this rule. After my last spontaneous googling session at 12 AM, I was just lying in my bed for a couple of hours staying alert and unable to fall asleep. In the morning, I felt exhausted and unable to concentrate on anything.
Use Screen Time (iOS) or Digital Wellbeing (Android) to schedule the time away from the screen. For example, between 9 PM and 7 AM, your phone can ban you from most apps and allow only phone calls. You can also automatically turn on the Do Not Disturb mode every night to make sure nothing interrupts your sleep.
Here’s a short checklist that will help you spend less time on your smartphone and stop phone addiction:
1. Pause for a couple of seconds before grabbing your phone and try to analyze why you do it.
2. Analyze your screen time and set time limits for the apps you use too much.
3. Hide the most distracting apps on the second page of the screen.
4. Consider deleting social media apps at all. If you need to, you can check your newsfeed in a browser.
5. Stay away from your phone after posting anything on social media. It’s too tempting to check your new likes and comments every 5 minutes.
6. Turn off notifications or keep them to a minimum.
7. Leave your phone in the bag while at home, work, or school.
8. Don’t use your smartphone before bedtime to have healthy sleep.