If you’re looking to reduce your screen time and develop a healthier relationship with your phone, check out 15 tips to control phone addiction below:
1. Turn off notifications
Seeing your phone light up with a notification disrupts your focus, even if you don’t immediately check it. With the average US smartphone user getting upward of 80 phone notifications per day, these small disruptions add up—a concept known as time confetti. Turn off all non-essential notifications (yes, all of them), and instead schedule a dedicated time in your day to go through them.
2. Delete social media apps from your phone
Still checking social media, even though you turned off notifications? Delete your social media apps from your phone. While you’ll still be able to access your accounts from a web browser, for example, the extra effort required to do so will deter mindless scrolling. If this seems like too big of a commitment, try deleting these apps during busy periods, like tax season or finals week.
3. Include your phone in spring cleaning
When it comes to spring cleaning, your phone deserves the same attention as the rest of your life. Take some time to delete apps or accounts you don’t use anymore, reset passwords, tidy up your inbox, unfollow social media accounts you’re no longer interested in, update your device(s) and more.
4. Use apps to track and limit phone use
Actively track your screen time habits and block the apps that take up most of your precious time using a tool like Opal. We recommend choosing only 1 or 2 tools to manage your screen time and use them daily, instead of installing 10 different productivity apps you’ll never use.
5. Stop device multi-tasking
While you might think you can watch the latest episode of your favorite show on TV, text your friends about your weekend plans on your phone AND finish any remaining work on your laptop, nothing is getting your full attention. When you make time in your day to just watch TV, just text your friends, or just focus on work, you’ll find that each activity is more fulfilling.
6. Establish tech-free zones
Tech-free zones are areas where technology is not permitted. Some ideas for tech-free zones include:
- the dinner table;
- the car;
- the bedroom.
Physical restrictions are often more effective than mental ones. And, replacing technology with things like meaningful discussions with family members, or habits like reading before bed, will leave you feeling less distracted.
7. Put your phone away before bed
While related to the above tip, this one deserves to be its own! The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you stop using electronic devices, like your phone, at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Two reasons include:
- the blue light that your phone emits closely resembles sunlight, and this throws off your body's biological clock;
- when you are preparing for sleep, you should try to get into a relaxed headspace.
Instead, try alternatives to scrolling, like light reading, meditation, or journaling.
8. Try “urge surfing”
Urges are like waves: they’ll rise in intensity, they’ll peak and then they’ll crash. Instead of fighting against the urge when you have an impulse to check your phone, “surf” it gently by breathing through the wave of the impulse for 10 seconds.
9. Make your phone less appealing
Our brains are attracted to bright colors, like the red notification badges on certain apps. To make these distracting apps (especially games and social media) less appealing, turn your display to grayscale.
10. Ask yourself the 3 W’s
Before reaching for your phone, ask yourself:
- WHAT for? What purpose did I pick up the phone for?
- WHY now? What was the trigger? Habit? Boredom?
- WHAT else? What can you be enjoying other than your screen at this very moment?
11. Use your phone for good
If you’re going to use your phone, use it to improve your well-being in a positive way. Download apps for guided meditation, like Headspace, reach out to and call friends and family members, or track and improve daily physical activity levels using the iOS Health app.
12. Take up a non-tech-related hobby
Are there any hobbies which you used to love but don’t have time for anymore, like going to the gym? Or, are there ones that you’ve always wanted to try, like photography? Now’s the time! Replace scrolling with a non-tech-related hobby. Not only is (re)learning a skill a good use of your time, but you might even find a new community to be a part of!
13. Take regular breaks from social media
No matter how strong-willed you are, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by social media. Take regular breaks from social media, whether that’s a day, a week, or longer (like the 30-day digital detox challenge) to reset your mind.
14. Set achievable goals
You know your own self best! Instead of going cold turkey on your phone, set achievable goals, like reducing your non-essential screen time to one hour per day, or only using your phone for texting and calling. Small wins are still wins.
15. Celebrate small wins
Be compassionate with yourself. You’re likely addicted to your phone because you want to escape from something else; don’t beat yourself up for it and instead try to tackle the root of the problem. And, every small win adds up to something bigger—a better, more mindful you!