Ever since I started my blog and Instagram, I noticed I could not go anywhere without my phone. The instant gratification and validation received in the form of comments and likes was addictive.
I was sleeping with my phone and waking up next to it. Staying on my phone before bedtime often delayed my sleep, which caused sleeping in and rushed mornings. Waking up next to my phone led to checking my email, blog, and insta feed before I even had the chance to drink water, pee, or brush my teeth.
I first became alarmed of this addiction when I noticed a strange sensation in my thumb, wrist, and index finger. Had I scrolled too much? Definitely. Constantly consuming content also led to a brain fog, which disturbed my sleep, weakened my focus, and reduced my ability to think clearly.
So, I decided to change my phone habits and find a phone / life balance. Almost a year into this journey, I have found my sweet spot and also realized that I am not alone. Phone addiction is a cause of concern worldwide, and there have been multiple studies shedding light on the detrimental effects (depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem to name a few) of excessive phone usage. Some of those studies can be found here.
If phone addiction is one of your concerns then I promise the tips I am sharing will be beneficial. They have been transformative in my phone / life balance journey! 🙂
1 – Identify your why-power
Darren Hardy in his book The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success writes:
“Forget about willpower. It’s time for why-power. Your choices are only meaningful when you connect them to your desires and dreams. The wisest and most motivating choices are the ones aligned with that which you identify as your purpose, your core self, and your highest values. You’ve got to want something, and know why you want it, or you’ll end up giving up too easily.”
Hardy could not have put it more simply. Ask yourself why you want to spend less time on your phone. Think of three big reasons and write them down somewhere to use as reference when you begin to give up too easily.
My why-power to break phone addiction was 1) Sleep better 2) Increase productivity 3) Discourage adopting consumerist behavior. These reasons stemmed from my desire to live a more balanced life. Now think about your reasons–they will lay the groundwork to breaking your phone addiction.
2 – Track your screen time
As of 2017, 29% of smart phone users spent 3-5 hours a day on their phone (source). Most of them, including myself, unknowingly. But now that I was aware of my phone addiction, tracking my phone usage became the second step to stop it.
I was spending as much as five hours on my phone, mostly on Instagram, Whatsapp, and Pinterest. That’s 5 hours a day spent staring at my screen in order to remain connected, relevant, and inspired. 5*365 = 1825 hours a year. 1825/24 = 76 days a year. That’s over 2 months of the year that I spent scrolling on my phone.
Having this crucial insight caused a mindset shift. It is what led me to actively monitor my screen time everyday and find ways to keep it low.
The app I installed to track my phone time is called Moment. Ever since iOS launched Screen Time, I have been using that instead. It is more accurate and versatile in its functions. If you are an Android user, Quality Time is a great app to track your screen time.
3 – Mindful Scrolling
Earlier this year, I listened to a Calm Masterclass called Breaking Bad Habits. In that class, world-renowned addiction expert, Judson Brewer, shares scientific studies (read here) in which smokers who could not quit smoking despite prolonged treatment quit when they were asked to smoke mindfully. Being present in the exercise of smoking everyday, helped them realize it was not as great as they thought it was.
As I listened to Brewer, I realized I could apply this technique to my habit of scrolling. I did not have to fight the urge to scroll. Instead, I had to be mindful while scrolling. So as I scrolled, I paid attention to what I was seeing and reading. I asked myself how this was creating value or bringing me joy and positivity.
Mindful scrolling helped me realize how often I was indulging in social media content that did not inspire me; on the contrary, it induced unhealthy comparison and negative thoughts. As a result of scrolling mindfully, I deleted apps, unfollowed social media accounts, and disconnected with people that were no longer relevant to my well-being and aspirations. Ultimately, that reduced my phone time.
4 – Eliminate decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is when the mind becomes tired after a long period of decision making. In today’s age, we make considerably more decisions than our ancestors did. Consequently, we default to habits and impulses if we have to make a decision when fatigued.
Since it was my habit to sleep with my phone and wake up next to it, I had to change that habit in order to avoid the impulse of using my phone if I could not fall asleep. I started leaving my phone in the living room about 15 minutes before bedtime.
This gave me a hard time in the beginning, but now I love that downtime so much that I leave my phone in the living room 45-60 minutes before bedtime and do not pick it up until after I have had my breakfast. I reached this point by adding five minutes to the original 15 minutes every few weeks.
If you use your phone as an alarm, seriously think about getting a cheap alarm clock. It will be worth every penny. 🙂
5 – Turn off notifications
This is the best service you can do to yourself even though it can induce a damning fear of missing out. Try to look beyond that fear by designating a time to keep up with your social media. I have set aside half an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. I use that time to reply to everyone and keep up with the social media accounts I follow.
For Whatsapp, once I have replied to unread messages, I archive those chats. This way my main page remains clutter-free and I am not tempted to engage in random and mindless “what’s up?” conversations that can drag too long.
Side note: It may be that you pick your phone more often after you turn off your notifications–fear of missing out is a bitch, after all. If that happens, refer to tip # 2 and practice mindful scrolling. That should help you put your phone down sooner than usual.
6 – Set a timer
It is easy to lose track of time while scrolling because our feeds are saturated with beautiful content, exciting stories, and juicy gossip. If you find that mindful scrolling is not helping as much, then simply set a timer on your phone before you open any apps.
I set a five or ten minutes timer and once the timer goes off, it is my cue to put the phone down and get back to life. If you find that you are not able to go back to life in five or ten minutes, do not get frustrated with yourself or become judgmental about your habits. Instead, be kind and give yourself more time.
Persistence is key. If you get frustrated one day, let it be. Continue the same exercise the next day.
7 – Schedule downtime
This is something I have only been doing for a month, but it has been phenomenal for my focus and productivity, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Identify the times of day when you need razor sharp focus. If you are a student, it can be when you are in class, a study group, or the library. For me that time is usually when I am at work.
I have scheduled 8:00 – 17:30 as downtime in my iOS Screen Time feature. You can choose apps that you would like access to during downtime–for me that is email, calls, news, music, calendar, maps, weather, and the browser. I have social media apps that I use (Instagram, YouTube & Pinterest) blocked for this time. If you use online shopping apps or other distracting apps (think games), it might be a good idea to block them as well.
These practices have transformed my relationship with my phone and social media, as well as increased my focus and productivity. If that sounds like something you want as well, I highly encourage you to try at least some of these tips. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments. Until my next post, wishing you a great weekend, lovelies. xx