Experiment: I put my iPhone in grayscale mode.

And haven’t turned back

Josh Hoffman
Dec 24, 2018 · 4 min read
Photo by Youssef Sarhan on Unsplash

When one of my friends admitted he was addicted to his iPhone, I freaked out like a four-year-old experiencing his first Halloween haunted house.

Even if you’re not addicted to your smartphone, we’re all guilty of overusing these devices, often indiscriminately.

To start taking precautionary measures to prevent such an addiction, I downloaded the app Moment (sorry, iOS only), so I could truly understand just how much I was using my iPhone. Turns out, I was averaging nearly three hours per day of smartphone screen time. Yikes.

With this in mind, I did something that, just a few months before, I would’ve called extreme and outrageous: I put my iPhone in grayscale mode, the equivalent of a black-and-white movie in your pocket.

Needless to say, my iPhone usage (literally) plummeted overnight; during the last week, for example, I’ve used my phone for 11 hours and seven minutes, or approximately one hour and 35 minutes per day.

Here are some other notable discoveries:

Social media became less interesting.

Grayscale mode takes all the “fun” out of social media, which is probably a good thing, since most of us mindlessly scroll through our news feeds during periods of downtime and momentary boredom, anyway.

If you want to use social media in color, that’s perfectly understandable, but follow James Clear’s habit-stacking formula, from his book Atomic Habits. The formula is:

After [current habit], I will [new habit].

In the case of grayscale mode and social media, your habit-stacking formula might look like this: After I deactivate grayscale mode to browse social media, I will reactivate it. You can use this same formula when viewing videos and photos you receive in instant messages or emails, as well.

Over time, you’ll use social media less because of the “friction” — the extra step of deactivating grayscale mode to browse social media — associated with it. (Side note: Adding “friction” to bad habits is one of the easiest ways to break or minimize them.)

Videos also became less interesting.

Naturally, black-and-white videos aren’t nearly as intriguing, so I stopped watching as many videos on my phone. Prior to grayscale mode, I could’ve easily spent 30-to-45 minutes watching a handful of videos, but now I’ll spend no more than 15 minutes, and often times even less.

After all, this is the point of putting your phone in grayscale mode: to use your phone less, not to use it at all.

Overall, I’m less stimulated by my phone.

Before going gray, my iPhone was a quick-fix to boredom, or whenever I had a few seconds or minutes of downtime. The problem with smartphones isn’t just that they’re legitimately addictive, but they also enable the Digital ADD, which has implications on our ability to sustain long-term focus and perform Deep Work (the most valuable type of work in today’s economy).

Don’t just take it from me, though. New research shows the role color plays in how we understand priorities and emotion, according to Nellie Bowles in the New York Times.

Smartphones can be incredible tools for many reasons, don’t get me wrong. The problem is when we continuously fall down their rabbit holes and get swept up by objectively poor and unhealthy habits that, for some people, can turn into a very much avoidable addiction.

Grayscale mode is the gateway to doing just the opposite.

How to activate grayscale mode

Activating grayscale mode varies for different models of Android phones (click here to figure it out for your Android phone), but it’s usually through the Accessibility menu.

For iPhones, the process is:

  1. Settings
  2. General
  3. Accessibility
  4. Display Accommodations
  5. Color Filters
  6. Switch Color Filters on and select Grayscale.

To easily toggle between color and grayscale, go to: Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters

Article Recap

  1. My smartphone usage plummeted overnight when I activated grayscale mode.
  2. If you want to use parts of your phone in color, follow this habit-stacking formula: After I deactivate grayscale mode to browse social media, I will reactivate it.
  3. The purpose of grayscale mode is to make smartphones less addictive, to reduce poor-habit formation, and to avoid Digital ADD.

There’s more where that came from at Hack My Time.

Josh Hoffman

Written by

Lifestyle entrepreneur, basketball coach, purveyor of ideas

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