Let me start this by saying that I’m not against cell phones. I have countless uses for mine and I love that I get to carry so much information and entertainment in my pocket at all times. However I do think there is a line between having a healthy use of your phone and not.
I actually didn’t get a cell phone until I was a junior in high school, before that I was cool and shared with my mom (thanks Mom). Since then, my phone has been attached to me the majority of my life.
Like I said, I do love having a cell phone, however I do recognize my own overuse of it. Too often I let it distract me from being productive or connecting with the people I’m with. I don’t want to compulsively reach for my phone every time I’m not being engaged by something and I don’t want to check Twitter instead of connecting with the people around me. So I’m pretty constantly seeking to control my phone use. Sometimes I’m better about it than others, but there are a few tactics that I think can be helpful for someone looking to control their phone use, and I wanted to share them with you.
I do want to note that I don’t do all of these, and I’m not perfect at any of them. Find the ones that will be the most helpful for you and give them a try. It could be fun to experiment with all of them as well at times.
Anyway let’s dig in, here are a few ways to use your phone less:
Leave it somewhere in the house after you get home from work
One of my biggest problems with my phone is that’s it's always right there. Anytime I’m not actively doing something I pick up my phone naturally and check my email or social media. To curb this, it can be helpful to leave your phone in one place when you’re at home. I like to do this when I’m reading or writing because it leads to less distractions.
Leave it in the car when you meet people for dinner
Meeting people for a meal should be about connecting with those people. Too often one person will check their phone, and then another, and soon enough everyone at the table is looking at their phone. If you really want to maximize time with your friends and family, leave your phone in the car (Or at least keep it in your pocket and leave it there until the end of the meal). Some studies suggest that even the presence of a cell phone can negatively affect your face to face communication.
Delete social media apps
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Get rid of the apps that distract you the most and often lead to you scrolling mindlessly. I did this for the majority of the month of January, and it definitely helped me to use my phone less. For some it’s not a long term solution, but it can help create some healthy habits.
Turn off the wifi and cellular for periods of time
This one is possibly my favorite, because it allows you to disconnect from the “internet” but still receive texts and phone calls. This is great if you don’t want to be distracted by your apps, but still want to be able to receive calls and texts in case of emergency. I have started to do this at work for blocks of time for optimal focus.
Here's the quickest way to turn them off on an iPhone:
Don’t sleep with your phone in your room
If your phone is next to you when you go to bed, you’ll probably check it before you go to sleep (or stare at it for 15 minutes). If your phone is next to you when you wake up, it’s likely the first thing you’ll give your attention to. Try letting your phone charge in another room and spend the night without your phone right next to you.
Use your phone as your alarm? You can actually buy an alarm clark at the store or on Amazon (crazy I know).
Put the phone on airplane mode
This is similar to turning off cellular/wifi, so I won’t spend too much time on it. Airplane mode is a great way to completely tune out, while still having your phone for emergencies (I do this a lot while hiking or other outdoor activities). Tim Ferriss says that he will put his phone on airplane mode for hours at a time.
At a certain point we just need to have discipline and take control of our phone usage. None of the tips and tricks you find here or elsewhere are going to do any long term good without the personal discipline to take control. In the end, each of us is responsible for using our phone as a tool and not as a crutch.
Turn off your phone for a whole day
GASP. To be upfront with this one, I haven’t done this, though I would like to. It’s a big commitment and not possible for some people who need to take care of their family or for other reasons.
However, when I worked at a summer camp in college, we would go days without our cell phones so I do know that it can be liberating to completely disconnect from everything that’s not right in front of you.
If you want to really spend some time without your phone, this is a home run.
Phones are great, but there can also be negatives associated with them. It’s up to us to use them in a way that improves our lives. Only you can know what this should look like in your own life, but decide what is best for you, and continually be looking to move in that direction.
If you have any additional tips please note them in the comments!