Let’s face it: phones have become an integral part of most people’s lives. At our fingertips, we can tap into breaking news around the globe, open an app for a last minute date night reservation, and check how many times Buddy went to the bathroom. Phones (smartphones to be exact) have made our lives more convenient and, for the most part, more enjoyable. However, we have entered an age where we are physically and mentally unable to put down our phones. Below are a few suggestions we have to help you use your phone less.
Set Mini Goals
Telling yourself to “stop using your phone so much,” is not very effective. Instead, try setting a mini habit for yourself. Setting smaller habits that are very difficult to fail can help you establish a new (bigger + better) habit in the long run. Habituating to a new ritual can be daunting, so many people never get started in the first place. Failures are bound to happen, but that doesn’t help. You’ll be overwhelmed by the negative feelings and associations that come with failure, making it even harder for you to continue working on a new habit over time.
To curb how often you use your phone, we have two suggestions for mini goals:
1. Set a “start” time to when you can start using your phone for the day. For example, if you get up at 8:00AM, set a rule for yourself that you may not use your phone until 8:10AM. Once you are accustomed to a time, push it back even later in small increments (10 minutes per increase should be a good start).
When you have established that habit of self-control in the mornings, you can set similar rules for yourself throughout the day in different settings. For example, when you are in the office, you may not look at your phone until an hour has passed, right before lunch, right after lunch, etc.
2. Set an “allowed time” for when you may go on your phone. This goal is slightly different than the one mentioned above because you will start big first and decrease the allowance period. For example, you wake up around 8:00AM and you go to bed around 11:00PM. You can start off by setting a goal for yourself to only use your phone between 8:00AM – 10:30PM. That shouldn’t be too hard since you’re setting up a goal to not use your phone 30 minutes before heading to bed. Over time, you can tighten that period to just perhaps 15 minutes every two hours throughout the day.
Once you have set a more regimented schedule for yourself thanks to mini habits, you can make them slightly more complex by adding in restrictions on what you may do on your phone during the allowance period. For example, can only check the news and messages in the mornings while social media is restricted to early evenings.
Increase Friction to Unlock Phone
Phones these days are equipped with biometric technology such as fingerprint scanners and face scanners. They have replaced the traditional four digit passcodes as the fundamental method of phone security and privacy protection for phone owners. Unlocking a phone has never been so simple. Place your thumb over a “home” button and voila, your phone is ready to be used. With facial recognition, the process is easier, with the phone unlocking as soon as you lift the phone into your line of vision. The one definite thing about them is that they have made unlocking and accessing one’s phone significantly more expedient even though research and studies have shown that biometric-based security functions are really not as secure as you may think.
One way to have yourself use your phone less is to increase the friction to unlock your phone. We suggest turning off the biometric functions and changing your lock to a custom alphanumeric passcode. Having this type of passcode will require “manual labor” input each time you want to use your phone. The idea here is that you will only go through the extra hassle of unlocking your phone if you have a specific intent in mind; not just to mindlessly check it.
Increase Hassle to Login to Accounts
One of the biggest culprits of phone addiction is social media. Not only are they engineered to have addictive qualities, but every platform now has their own native mobile apps, making it easier than ever to check your feeds, notifications, and everything in between. Similar to the suggestion above, one way to cut down on how often you go on social media (and even other addictive apps) is to make it a hassle each time you have the urge to go on the app or platform.
The first step is to change the password to something that is difficult for you to remember. We recommend a password that is a random string of at least 10 numbers, letters, and symbols. For example “a$uTG639%” is a good one. (If you need to do this for multiple accounts, each account ideally should have its own unique password.) Next, instead of auto-saving the new password for autofill next time, you should write it down somewhere that is not on your phone. Make sure it’s somewhere safe and still accessible for when you need to login. The last step is probably going to be the hardest and will take some willpower to do. Whenever you are done checking your accounts, remember to log off.
By making this change, you will be required to manually retrieve your password and also tediously type it out each time before you can login. Since many of us will eventually remember the password due to rote learning, we recommend changing the password every 10-12 weeks. This will keep things fresh and secure.
Replace Smartphone with a Smart Device + “Dumbphone”
A solution that is often proposed to help people with a phone addiction is to get rid of their smartphone and downgrade to a “dumbphone.” The thought of using a dumbphone is frightening because it is hard to imagine our day-to-day lives without the new standard of connectivity when it comes to the technology carried on our person.
The standard for most mobile phones these days is what we’re used to calling a “smartphone.” The definition of a smartphone, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is a mobile phone that performs many of the functions of a computer, typically having a touchscreen interface, Internet access, and an operating system capable of running downloaded applications. In the palm of our hands, in our back pockets, in our bags, phones are constantly connecting a majority of us to the Internet and as a result, the world. With the proliferation of smartphones, we added more convenience and improved overall quality of life. Things that come to mind include: GPS and maps, streaming music on the fly, up-to-date weather forecasts, and calendar reminders. With just a dumbphone, access to those things are instantly taken away.
However, if you are ready to take the plunge, we have a slightly different approach to switching over to a dumbphone. Many of the functionalities and conveniences we enjoy about our smartphones can be replaced by another smart device such as an iTouch or a mini tablet. We understand some minor problems and inconveniences may arise, but we think it is a good compromise. You will have a dumbphone, which will perform the two basic functions we all need in a phone these days: call and text (SMS). You will also have your non-phone smart device, which will perform the other functionalities you seek and miss about your smartphone. Depending on the set up, you will most likely need to have WiFi access to use your smart device. As a result, you will be curbing your phone use while simultaneously learning how to become less reliant on your digital device.