How I try to kill off my smartphone addiction.
I’m an iOS user since I bought an early-generation iPod Touch many years ago. I was fascinated by that device and even remember how I was willing to pay 8€ to upgrade to iOS 3 back then. Some time later I gave that iPod to a friend, because I bought my very first smartphone, the iPhone 4S. I totally loved it and I still think it has one of the most beautiful product designs ever created. The 4S served me well from the moment I got it until the point it felt kinda outdated and another iPhone was announced. In September 2015 I got myself an iPhone 6S, I bought it immediately after its release.
This phone is just magnificent! I fell in love with its pressure-sensitive display that enabled me to 3D-touch app icons and other bits of the UI, mainly functioning as shortcuts.
Today’s smartphones are capable of doing thousands of different tasks and the possibilities already seem to be endless. But with it comes the risk of the technology overwhelming us and sucking us into these devices.
It took quite a while for me until I realized that. Many apps, especially social media and games, are designed to get you back into them again and again. Free games and social networks make profit from you spending time with them and therefore being able to show you advertisements.
It’s a scary thing and it ALWAYS makes us stare at our smartphones longer than we ever intended to. I knew I was enough of a smartphone addict already, so I took some steps to decrease my usage.
(By the way, even though I get counted as a “digital native”, I still lived a very analogue childhood. I’m really happy about that in hindsight.)
Kill off as many apps as possible.
I don’t want your smartphone to become a dumbphone, but I recommend going through all the apps you currently have installed and honestly think about which ones you actually use on a regular basis. If there are some that you think you could live without, just go ahead and delete them. I bet you won’t even notice once they’re gone. Be brave while doing this and don’t think long about any decision, just do it. You can always reinstall apps, in case you really can’t live without one of your deleted apps.
Especially have a look at all your apps that contain feeds. To be honest, I am talking about social media apps here. These feeds or timelines, or whatever they call it, are infinite. You can scroll through them and you will just never come to and end. This is dangerous. Not only is it extremely time-consuming, but you will also never feel satisfied after scrolling for 20 minutes since you’ll never really finish it. Instead you’ll always feel the urge of getting updated again and suddenly you find yourself back in one of these apps. The fear of missing out is real.
In the best case you just delete them right away. Your account will still be active. Most of these services can also be accessed from your web browser, so why not give that a try? Also, logging out after each session of social media consumption will hinder you from looking into it shortly after.
If you just can’t delete an app, at least restrict its notifications, so that the app doesn’t make you open it every time something new pops up. That way you can regain control over your habits and start tapping apps manually every now and then instead of finding yourself into them after a notification appeared.
Some services even offer different, individual apps that let you use parts of its experience. Think of only using Facebook Messenger instead of having the main app installed as well. You will no longer waste time going through that feed of mostly irrelevant stuff, but still be able to instant message your contacts there.
Organize your homescreen.
Try to really think about which apps you use the most and which can be put in folders. I bet you can also reduce everything to a single page homescreen that contains your favourites and some folders for the rest of your apps.
Also, prioritize apps to be on the homescreen, that don’t suck you in but instead have a rather positive impact on your life. Put addictive ones (social media, video streaming, games) into folders.
Put only the three most important apps of each category onto the first page of a folder. If the rest is hidden behind them on the following pages, you won’t always have a glimpse on them and therefore don’t get reminded and possibly distracted by them.
Find a calm wallpaper.
For me this is important. Not only do I find minimal wallpapers more aesthetically pleasing, but I also like how they can’t bring up any memories like photos would do for example.
It’s a small thing, but it also contributes to make my smartphone less
Restrict app notifications.
Many apps abuse the ability to send notifications to users. I believe, that notifications should only appear if it’s of importance and we want them to. In my case, I allow it to my messengers and mail, my calendar (upcoming event reminders), my todo-list (due dates, recurring reminders) and Twitter.
Some other apps’ notifications are allowed to show up in the notification centre as well, but they don’t pop up as banners, making them less distractive again.
iOS provides users with a lot of control over how you want to receive notifications. You should make use of it and spend some minutes adjusting them to your needs.
Create shortcuts and automate tasks.
Since some time I’m quite into apps like Workflow, Launch Center Pro and IFTTT. They open up many more possibilities you can use your phone with, but they can also help you save time by automating tasks or setting shortcuts to things you use frequently. There are endless ways of using these services. Create shortcuts to your favourite websites, call friends with one click, open apps, search in sites and services, start music playlists, post stuff.
Plenty of options these three apps alone can be used for. I won’t go into detail, but I recommend checking them out. Optimizing and automating daily routine tasks has become more and more important to me.
(In case you actually want to go into detail and learn more about this now, I highly recommend looking into Federico Viticci’s website “MacStories”. Federico is tech scene’s king of iOS automation and I’ve been reading his articles for years now. He’s also doing a podcast named “Canvas”, which is also all about that topic and iOS productivity in general.)
Set a “Do not disturb” time for your phone.
Did you ever wake up before you wanted to, just because a new notification came in and wants your attention? It’s a good thing to give yourself some time for your own and not get annoyed by notification sounds before you go to sleep or before your alarm starts ringing. That’s what the feature “Do not disturb” exists for in iOS. You can either manually activate it at any time by swiping up the Control Centre or you set a predefined schedule that will automatically mute your notifications for a certain time span. Ideally, the moment you allow your phone to make sounds or vibrate again should be after the time your alarm goes off.
I hope I was able to offer you some inspiration on how you can change the relationship to your smartphone to the better. It really is an important topic to me and I’d love to help others with this story as well.
Thanks for reading.