Do you check your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night? Do you jump to see what’s going on every time you get a notification, even when you’re in the middle of a conversation or out to dinner? Do you scroll aimlessly through your apps, waiting for something to happen, half out of boredom and half out of the feeling of wanting to be productive, all while not REALLY being able to relax?
Then this post is for you. I’ll teach you the ways of the phoneless, and show you step-by-step how to wean yourself off your phone and cut this addiction for good, all while remaining a functioning member of society who actually does check their messages once in a while.
The annoying thing about a phone addiction is that it’s not even satisfying. It’s actually quite stressful. Stay with me to get rid of that stress forever.
Just to warn you, this is massively geared towards iPhones. I do not understand how other phones work, but I’m sure there’s a way of applying these methods to other phones (youPhones, as I like to call them).
Step 1: turn off your notifications for EVERYTHING except phone and text. Emails do not need to be checked immediately. Facebook messages, instagram likes, and tweets do not need to be checked immediately. In fact, you’ll probably make yourself more sane if you check these twice a day max and leave it at that. If someone needs to get hold of you that urgently THEY CAN CALL.
If you are one of those people that just HAS to have work emails turned on or else shit’s going to hit the fan, make sure to ONLY have work email notifications on, and no other type of email. Download a separate app if you need to.
This includes both the little red notifications that come up, and the notifications that instantly flash on your phone. Picking up your phone should be a choice, not something you feel forced to do to get rid of a notification. However, we’re keeping the phone function working as normal, in order to stay a functioning member of society who can be contacted in an emergency.
Step 2: Turn on automatic do not disturb and night shift each evening. This can be done on settings. Do not disturb simply means if someone tries to call you, they won’t get through unless they try twice in a row. Eminently reasonable at 10pm. Also I’m sorry but if work is sending you emails that late you are within your rights not to read them until the next morning. Night shift is SO important as it removes the blue light from your screen. Blue light can prevent you from sleeping so I highly recommend avoiding it before bed (you can also download f.lux for laptops).
Step 3: Make apps more difficult to access. The reason you’re always clicking on to facebook news feed or instagram is that it’s RIGHT THERE. The more steps something takes, the less likely you are to do it. What I’ve personally done is arranged my apps into folders, with only one folder per screen. As my apps were previously colour-coded, I’ve kept them like this. I STRONGLY recommend this step. It’s like keeping your desktop clear – it literally feels like a sigh of relief. Who cares what’s happening on facebook, I have to click twice to access it anyway! I’d also recommend removing all apps from shortcuts except your phone app. I think seeing a clear screen just instinctively makes you calmer.
Like seeing a tidy desk or a clean house.
Step 4: Remove all widgets from your phone. For everyone unfamiliar with what this is, widgets are what appear when you scroll as far left as possible on an iPhone (as I said, not sure how it works with other phones, but I’m sure they have a similar setup). Widgets usually include “frequently used” apps, to try to make life “easier for you”. There might also be stressful things on there like your calendar, or unanswered notifications. Turn that shit off and enjoy a nice, empty screen. This step is super important, as if you’ve gone to the trouble of making your apps more difficult to access and your phone decides to give you some helpful shortcuts on your home screen, the whole process will have been for nothing.
Step 5: Let your battery run down in the evenings (and be ok with it). Most people associate a low battery with stress – but it can actually be quite liberating to deliberately let your battery run down. Of course, it goes without saying that you should only do this if you know you won’t be going out again – but even if you do decide to go out, you can always bring a charger with you (or go to the shops without a phone – imagine that!) I’ve also stopped charging my phone overnight unless I know I’m going to need it the next day. If you’re unsure about this last step, I recommend trying it on holiday and seeing how you feel. You can then extend it to weekends, and eventually evenings at home.
BONUS Step: Choose a clean, calming, word-free home and lock screen in neutral tones. Word-free is important. As Marie Kondo says, there’s something about getting a constant stream of information that is just stressful to the mind (for anyone wondering, she suggests removing labels from things you own to avoid this – but I think it applies equally to the digital world). There should be as little text as possible on digital devices, unless you specifically click onto an app which relies on words. I also want to emphasise neutral tones and a clean feel – there are plenty of absolutely stunning backgrounds where, once you apply them, it just feels like too much is going on. A phone (or desktop) background isn’t just a pretty picture – it’s the first thing you look at every time you open your device, and its sole aim is to bring on a mood. It’s like atmospheric music – it needs to fit the purpose you’re using it for. You may love Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi, but you might still not choose to use it as atmospheric music while you work. Try to bear this in mind when picking a background as well. If you must have something more “interesting”, I suggest picking it for your lock screen instead.
Of course, these steps are not enough – you have to actually want to cut down phone use in order for all this to work. But it’s certainly a start, and I’ve definitely noticed a marked difference in my own phone usage. It’s a bit like coming up for air after being underwater for a long time. You stop being able to see the appeal all together, and start noticing when others (or yourself!) are going on your phone out of boredom or habit. Just live in the moment, man! 🌱