An Underrated Productivity Hack: ‘Dumb Down’ Your Phone

5 strategies to sap your phone’s power and regain time and focus

Stephan Joppich
The Attention Resistance
5 min readAug 28, 2021


Photo by Sumeet Singh on Unsplash

If you’re reading this, you possess prodigious powers.

You could read the entire history of humankind. Have your deepest food craving delivered to your doorstep. Spend the entire day watching Netflix. Learn any imaginable skill. Or call a stranger on the other side of the globe.

All it takes are a few swift flicks of your thumbs.

This is a problem.

Why Powerful Phones Are a Problem

The average US adult spends nearly four hours on their phone. Per day. And this doesn’t even consider the additional screen time from TVs or computers. For kids, screen time nearly doubled during the pandemic.

This makes us miserable.

Negative health effects don’t just show up. They secretly creep in. From drained creativity to sleep issues. From envy to loneliness. And from anxiety to depression. Not to mention the lifetime you mindlessly sacrifice glued to your screen.

The dangers of excessive screen time seem to fill an encyclopedia of endless volume.

Luckily, there’s an escape route.

‘Dumbing down’ your phone effectively reduces your screen time and can help you boost productivity.

How to Dumb Down Your Phone — 5 Strategies

Surely, the easiest way would be to ditch your smartphone altogether.

As a replacement, you could get one of those sturdy and reliable keypad Nokia phones. (Bonus effect: You can hurl it out of a fifth-floor window and pick it up from the pavement — undamaged.)

But seriously, smartphones have shaped modern life. It’s difficult to just ditch them for a Nokia brick. And despite all the criticism, smartphones were invented to do one thing only: Be useful.

Dumbing down your phone is, therefore, not a strategy to get rid of your phone. It’s all about exploiting its best features while not letting it hijack your brain.



Stephan Joppich
The Attention Resistance

Engineer turned philosophy student • I write about loneliness, minimalism, and books that changed my life • More food for thought →