15 Ways to Reducing Phone Addiction

Life on Track phone addiction

Today I’m going to be taking you through my 15 best strategies for reducing phone addiction. Hopefully, you’ll find some of these valuable and you’ll be able to start implementing them today to spend less time on your phone.

Sleep with your phone outside of your bedroom

If I could only give you one strategy to take away from today, it would be this. I’d go as far as to say that I think you get a 10 to 20% increase in quality of life simply by making this change. We’ve all been there – can’t sleep on a night time and you know that booty pictures and funny cat videos are only three feet away. So you roll over, you open your phone and then three hours later it’s 4 am, you hate yourself and you’ve ruined tomorrow before tomorrow’s even begun.

Keep your phone outside of your bedroom. Take the charging cable now and put it somewhere else – put it in the kitchen, put it in the living room, put it in the hallway – and just charge your phone there overnight. You’re not going to want to wake up without charge on your phone and if you don’t move the charger you cannot have it next to your bed.

This is by far the easiest strategy for reducing your phone use. It’ll improve your sleep, it’ll mean that you get better starts to your day. Just do it.

Have a phone-free morning

Following on from sleeping with your phone outside of your bedroom, another amazing strategy is to not use your phone for as long as you can on a morning – ideally until you’re stepping out of the door to begin your day. Instead of starting the day in a reactive state, you’re being proactive. You get to decide what you’re going to do with your morning without being sideswiped by whatever’s trending on the internet or whatever silly group chat messages.

There is no reason that you need to check your phone first thing in the morning, so just don’t do it.

Turn off all notifications, especially group chats

The phone is there for you to use, not for it to use you – and certainly not for other people to just step into your day. If you imagine that you were sat down having dinner somewhere and somebody just came over and sat at your table and started talking to you, interjecting between you and the person that you were with, you’d feel like they were being really rude.

By leaving notifications on your phone, that is precisely what you’re allowing the entire internet to do to you. Not only that, but for the most part group chats aren’t even sending messages to us – we’re getting a notification that someone has talked to someone else and that is interjecting into our day.

It’s one time that you need to make this change – go to your settings and turn off notifications for everything that doesn’t matter. You may have your daughter on iMessage, you may have your mum on Messenger or whatever it might be – feel free to leave those on. But there is not a group chat in history that you need to keep notifications on for.

There might be a little bit of residual anxiety about turning off notifications – what if I miss an emergency? What if there’s something serious going on? If it’s that serious, someone will ring you. Honestly, by doing this almost nothing will change other than the fact that your day doesn’t get annihilated by people just sending you random stuff from the internet.

Log out or remove apps that you use excessively

This has been a really big one for me – adding in the friction of having to log back in when I want to use Instagram or Facebook or Twitter is just so effortful. It forces that intentionality so that I can’t just randomly decide to open it and then tumble into a scroll hole and just that mindfulness gap, that little bit of a break forces me to hold back – do I want to use this? Do I need to be on Instagram? Probably not. I can’t be bothered and I’ll put it away.

Think of the apps that take the most time – it’s probably going to be Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok. If you logged out of them what would change? Would anything matter at all? Probably not.

Use desktop versions of apps

This is such an easy change, especially if you have to be in communication with a lot of people because everything that you do on your phone you can also do on your laptop. There’s not any reason for you to have your phone out and that leads us into…

Keep your phone out of sight and out of reach when you’re at your desk

The proximity of your phone to you is going to be a direct function of how much you’re distracted by. If your phone is within sight you will almost always pick it up and if your phone is within reach you’ll do the same. Just leave it in a drawer, leave it in a locker, keep it somewhere that you can’t get to and you won’t be able to use it.

It sounds so obvious but that’s because it works – if your phone isn’t within arm’s reach you can’t use it. When a task gets hard at your desk you’re naturally going to look for something to distract you and if your phone is in arm’s reach that’s the first place that you’re going to go.

Use voice commands as much as possible

I wasn’t a massive fan of Siri when it first came out. I thought it was clunky and she didn’t understand my accent and always mistranscribed things when I was telling her. But it permits you to spend a lot less time on your phone.

There’s not much now that you can’t do by dictating to your phone and especially if you’ve got a pair of AirPods or any other wireless headphones you can be doing anything, especially if you’re having a phone-free morning routine.

You might need to call somebody but not want to open up your phone and get sucked into the vortex that is all your notifications.

Use wireless headphones

As far as I’m concerned, Apple’s AirPods are the best product that they’ve ever created and this is because it permits you to use your phone whilst you don’t have it in your hand. On top of that, you’re unencumbered, you’re untethered from your device. You can walk around your kitchen while you’re cooking or prepping or doing whatever it is – still listening to a podcast, still listening to an audiobook – you still get to consume your content but you don’t have to have your phone within reach.

Just the same as having our phone away from our desk, not having our phone within arm’s reach when we’re going about our day-to-day business makes it much less likely that we’re going to pick it up. So by using wireless headphones, it means we don’t even need to be near it.

Always use your phone standing up

This sounds a little bit odd but makes sense when you think about it behaviorally. When you are comfortable, when you are sedentary, you’re more likely to stay in the position that you’re in. So if you’re on your phone sat down on the couch watching TV or laid in bed, likely it is because you’re quite comfortable that you’re just going to continue going.

Adding in this environmental friction is the same as logging out of your apps or deleting them and having to reinstall them – it just makes you question “do I really want to use this?”. It forces us to be intentional with our phone use. If you’re sat down or laid in a comfortable bed you’re going to keep on going through your phone forever. But if you know that you’re supposed to stand up every time that you use your phone, are you really going to make that effort just so that you can check what’s happened on Instagram?

Have a hard stop for phone use at night

If you can consider this the intermittent fasting of phone use. So we’ve restricted how long it’s going to be before we pick our phone up on a morning and then we’re going to restrict how late it is that we use our phone on a night. By restricting the time period within which we can use our phone we’re inevitably going to reduce our screen time.

One of the best rules I’ve found for this is to have a behavioral trigger that I stick to and after that, I don’t use my phone. So I tend to have a shower on a nighttime – after I have a shower, which is about two hours to 90 minutes before I go to bed, I don’t use my phone. This could be having an evening meal, it could be taking the dog for a walk, it could be picking the kids up from soccer practice – whatever, it doesn’t matter. The point is that you set yourself a rule and you know that after that particular behavior has occurred you no longer use your phone.

The negative effects of blue light and using a screen before you go to bed are massive. They will make your sleep worse, they will play around with your melatonin release, they will play around with your dopamine levels and your cortisol. It’s just a bad time. This ties in perfectly with leaving your phone outside of your bedroom so you can have a behavioral trigger – walking the dog, going for a bath, whatever it might be – 90 minutes to two hours before you go to bed – plug your phone in wherever it’s going to stay overnight and that’s it, hands off.

Never use your phone in a parked car

This is something that infuriates me when I see it in myself and other people. You set off early or just about on time and you rush and you worry about getting yourself somewhere. And then when you get out of the car just before you do you decide to open up your phone. You’re sat in a nice warm car, it’s cold outside, it’s raining, you can’t be bothered to go at the gym just yet and then before you know it you’ve spent 10 minutes on that and you’re late again. You just rushed through traffic and nearly killed five people to make it on time to sit and look at Snapchat.

This is a really easy fix and leave this on at number 12 which is always pack your phone in the boot of your car.

Always pack your phone in the boot of your car

It’s simply not worth it to have your phone within arm’s reach when you’re driving. Just because you’re in a moving vehicle doesn’t mean that your brain realizes it shouldn’t be tempted to pick your phone up as you’re sat at a set of red lights or stuck in a traffic jam. Not only is using your phone when you’re stationary still illegal, but your brain doesn’t know to put the phone down when you start moving again.

Another thing to consider is just how much stimulus do you need? You’re already driving in a two-ton missile down a road at multiple miles per hour – perhaps listening to a radio or a podcast or an audio book. Do you really need to be able to look at the screen as well? You can use your time in the car as a perfect opportunity to spend some time away from your phone without the possibility of using it. And by leaving it in the boot it’s not going to be an option.

Move icons away from your home screen

The home screen now, especially since iOS’s most recent 14.0 update, is so customizable. You can put widgets on there which I know everyone on Android has been talking about for forever but you can finally customize your phone to service you in the way that you want.

My home screen is super super simple. I’ve taken all of the icons that I no longer need and the apps that I don’t want myself to use and I’ve hidden them. I’ve got to scroll for five different pages until I can access even the app library.

You can also remove apps from Siri search so if you pull down from the top they won’t come up. Every single step that you take toward making accessing apps that you don’t want to use more difficult is going to benefit you.

It’s a 10-minute job to rearrange your home screen into a way that works for you rather than against you and downstream from that it’s going to change the entire way that you use your device.

Have a screen time widget on your home screen

This allows you to see just how much time you’ve spent on your phone every time that you open and unlock your device. You’re going to have this big number telling you “this is how you’re getting on today”. This allows you to self-regulate your phone use much more accurately. You’re not subjectively trying to remember how you’ve got on today and over time you can track the trends of how all these different strategies are impacting your time on screen.

Have a phone sabbath

This is something I did for most of the weekends in 2020 and it benefited me. Taking a Sunday and not touching my phone at all meant that I looked forward to getting to the end of the week because it meant that I could work on stuff that I’ve always wanted to do but I never feel like I have time to.

I was journaling more, reading more, I was meditating more, I was able to go and train, I was spending time with friends, and leaving my phone at home so that I could focus on actually engaging with them.

You can similarly see the tech sabbath as not using our phone before a certain time on the morning and not using it after a certain time in the night. By restricting the period within which we use our device inevitably we’re going to down-regulate our use.

Conclusion of Reducing Phone Addiction

So there you have it – my 15 best strategies for reducing your phone use. Most of these tactics are based on distancing yourself from your device or creating bright-line rules that are easy to see when you’re sticking to them.

A final suggestion I have is to remove self-judgment from your phone use. Behind every swipe and bong and press is an army of the world’s smartest behavioral scientists backed by the most complex algorithms and the biggest companies in the world. They understand your motivations far better than you do and their sole goal is to keep you on your phone.

This is how famous Youtuber Chris Williamson reduced his addiction

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