Blake Snow

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8 ways to conquer your smartphone obsession

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

“I really wish I spent more time on my phone,” said no one ever. I doubt anyone will.

And yet, many of us can’t resist the Kavorka of our phones, in times of idleness or activity. What’s a modern human to do?

Don’t worry, Internet denizens. I got you. After five years on a lean, enlivening, and offline-rich phone diet, here are eight things you can do right now to put your phone in check, free yourself from its compulsive clutches, and live in the moment: 

1. Turn off all audible alerts and visual notifications (non emergency ones). If you allow your phone to interrupt your life whenever it wants, you’ll forfeit your daily life to others. So instead of working for your phone, make it work for you and turn off all text, email, and app notifications, including those on the lock screen. Here are my settings. The only distractions I let come through are phone calls, because those are always used in emergencies, and texts from my wife and kids. Everything else is silent. I have to physically open an app to check for updates. I don’t even see how many new work emails I have on my phone. Having done this for five years, I’ve accomplished a whole lot more offline than I would have otherwise.

2. Don’t take your phone to bed. If you’re incapable of parting with your phone while you sleep, you’ll never overcome the separation anxiety and dependent obsession many people experience. A healthy relationship with your phone starts in the bedroom. That means no more using your phone as an alarm clock (buy a stand alone instead). No more stowing or charing it on the nightstand. No more working from bed. No more compulsive checks. If you want better sleep, want to read more, want to increase the chances of spontaneous sex, and want to inspire yourself more, leave your phone anywhere but the bedroom.

3. Enable “do not disturb” mode. In addition to disabling non-emergency alerts, I also enable “do not disturb” from 10 pm to 8 am. If someone tries to call me three times within a minute, my phone will override this. But the “do not disturb” mode is an extra line of defense, and one of the best features of my phone. For those that aren’t quite ready to turn off all alerts, consider enabling this from the hours of 6 pm – 7 am with any needed exceptions. This will allow you to share a distraction-free evening with family and friends, and a stress-free one without all the buzzing.

4. Check your motive before sharing. Even with extreme settings such as mine, including quitting social media, I still have to resist “the lure of the smartphone” everyday. How fixating these things are! The latest way phones demand our attention is in asking us to share photos and videos of every little semi-interesting moment. In my case, that’s sharing things with close friends and family through group texts and chat. As a show-off, sometimes I let my sharing get out of hand. To counter this, I check my motive before sharing things digitally. “Will sharing this deepen my relationship with the people on the other end?” If not, I’ll forget it and continue smelling the roses.

5. Limit apps and treat them as guilty until proven innocent. With exception to a few folders, I limit my apps to two screen swipes only. If I haven’t used something in a while or don’t plan to, I delete it. I’ve had to re-download of few apps over the years, but this strategy helps me keep unimportant things out of sight and out of mind. In fact, most people use just four apps for 75% of their smart phoning. So clean house. Then be vary wary before downloading new apps. The more digital clutter and baggage you have, the harder it becomes to live in the analog world.

6. Pick a hobby that doesn’t involve your phone.Ideally these should be offline ones, not excessive TV or console gaming. For me, that’s food and cooking, enjoying music on my new hi-fi, working on my heart (and body), reading books, throwing parties, playing chess, hiking national parks, and others. For you, it’s probably different. Either way, unless you have more interesting things to do, you’ll default to your phone. Granted, it takes work to keep, maintain, and discover new hobbies. Sometimes you just feel like plopping on the sofa. I get it. But unless you revive or start new hobbies, you’ll end up spending a lot more time on your phone than you planned to.

7. Work less. It’s not complicated. The secret to life is work/life balance. It’s certainly not this. The dying should know. So understand what drives people to work too much and Internet too much. Then make a calculated change by setting boundaries. In my case, that’s going extreme and only working 9–5 on weekdays, never nights or weekends, excepting 2-3 emergencies per year. Whatever you decide, you should be using your phone, Internet, and mobile office to produce better and more work in less time. With all this great technology, there’s no need to overdo it.

8. Value facetime over screen time. Next time you’re in public—say at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, on an airplane — strike up a conversation with the person next to you instead of reaching for your phone. In place of occupational platitudes, ask them what they like to do. See where the conversation takes you. Learn something. Whatever you do, please know that socializing offline is a lot more interesting than online. And it’s an excellent way to curb your smartphone obsession.

To get the most from life, what smartphone strategies do you follow?

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