Follow these rules to beat smartphone addiction for good.
It’s incredible, when you think about it.
In our pockets, we carry miniature devices with enough computing power to guide 120,000,000 Apollo 11 rockets simultaneously. These devices can allow us to view information about almost any topic, person or thing on the planet. I mostly use mine to text the eggplant emoji in ways that suggest it’s a peepee.
All this available information has made us smartphone junkies.
For how many of us is a glowing screen the first thing we see in the morning? The last thing at night?
When you’re waiting for an elevator, do you instinctively pull out your phone — before you even know what you’re going to do with it?
Do you not feel the tiniest of thrills when you see three(!) new text messages?
Phones are compelling because they are so damn stimulating. On the phone, there’s always something new to react to. And it’s one-way viewing: we can voyeuristically peep on other people’s lives with no threat of being discovered. The net result: a fresh jab of dopamine, always a swipe away.
The net effective of this constant stimulation: more unhappiness and reduced ability to focus. Fixing your smartphone addiction will be extremely beneficial to both areas.
Look, smartphones are awesome, and indispensable. I’m pro-smartphone. On the balance of things, they enable us to augment and extend our lives in almost miraculous fashion.
But protecting our health and happiness is paramount. We need to set up — and stick to — simple rules that keep our smartphone usage under control.
Here are the three most wholly effective rules for managing smartphone addiction.
1. Disable email notifications
Together, email and smartphones are the harbingers of the distraction apocalypse.
Email is a notoriously overstuffed channel. When each inbound email buzzes your phone as it arrives, you stop whatever you’re doing and react to it. Continually switching focus from one thing to another (“task switching”) is clinically proven to cause mental fatigue and kill productivity.
Turn off notifications. Block them from reaching you. This will profoundly impact your life for the better. I can’t over-emphasize how effectively this simple step has improved my focus.
- How to manage Notification Center banners, popups, badges, and sounds on your iPhone and iPad [iMore.com]
- How to: Disable Android Application Notifications [droid-life.com]
Worried about missing important emails? Don’t be. Set yourself up with a batch processing schedule where YOU, not your inbox, control the frequency of interruption.
2. Use Airplane Mode frequently
Many smartphone addicts attempt to put constraints on their usage. I’ve been there.
“I won’t check my phone first thing in the morning, or before bed.”
“I’ll check my phone less during the day.”
This is like embarking on a diet when you still have Drake’s coffee cakes in your pantry. Willpower be damned. At some point, those suckers are getting eaten.
The phone is just too easy to check. And one quick peek soon turns into an hour of idle browsing. There’s too much activity to dip in, dip out.
The solution: When you’ve decided it’s no-phone time, keep your device on airplane mode. This cuts down the temptation to check it, because there simply won’t be any new information to see.
Every night I go on airplane mode around 8 or 9, and only come back online after I’ve completed my morning routine.
3. Take phone-free days every once in a while
I love this habit even though it’s brutally hard. There is simply no more effective way to lessen smartphone dependence and increase your presence than taking a short phone fast.
It’s really easy. Choose a day — a weekend usually works best — and don’t turn your phone (or look at any electronic screens) all day. Going for a long walk and NOT Instagramming a pretty tree won’t kill you. It may even help you appreciate beauty in a different way.
In the age of technological saturation, it’s hard to imagine a not-so-distant past where screen-free days were the rule, not a freak exception that you had to engineer yourself.
Useful? There’s more about rules for improving focus + productivity in the age of digital distraction on my website.