Weekly roundup: Tips to stop checking your phone so often

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This week we’re exploring how to stop picking up your phone so often. It’s a modern-day problem, but many of us can’t leave the room—let alone the house—without our phones in our pockets. We even have new gadgets to wear on our wrists to help us keep our phones in our pockets more—but without missing out on anything.

Having a computer in your pocket is amazing. There’s no denying that we’re incredibly lucky to be able to afford these powerful machines and to take advantage of how fast technology is advancing.

But I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to spend a little less time with my phone and a little more time with people, nature, food, and anything else not involving screens.

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Keep your phone out of reach

If your phone is always nearby, it’s easy to pick it up more often than you’d like to. Making it harder to give in to that temptation will help you break the habit of picking up your phone anytime you can.

Adam Alter, professor of marketing at NYU and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked , says to think about designing your environment to help you avoid your phone:

So if there’s something that you keep doing obsessively, make sure that it’s not in your environment and you’re less likely to do it. That’s a much more effective way of preventing yourself from using it than say keeping it nearby but trying to just suppress the desire to use it.

Turn off notifications

We’ve all heard this one before, but turning off your notifications is a classic way to ease your reliance on that little box in your pocket that’s always vying for your attention.

Alter says turning off notifications is a way to take back control :

Turn off the “ding” sound when you get a text message so that instead of your phone saying, “Hey, check me now,” you decide when it’s time to check. You’re removing the control from the phone and you’re bringing it back to yourself. You can also take the apps that are most addictive for you, and bury them in a folder on the fourth page.

Replace your phone with something else

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It sounds easy to keep your phone further away so it’s hard to get to, but in practice that’s quite difficult. The trick, according to Alter , is to replace your phone with something else:

What you want to do is you want to find a behavior that is a stand-in for the behavior that you don’t want to be doing. You replace the bad thing that you shouldn’t be doing with something good that you should be doing.

So you start leaving your phone in your home office or in your entrance hall. When you’re in bed or chilling on the couch, what do you do? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Leave a book on your bedside table
  • Leave another book or a stack of magazines next to your couch
  • Keep a bag of knitting or crochet, a coloring book, or a sketchbook and pencil next to the couch
  • Leave a deck of cards or a puzzle toy on the table by your couch
  • Get out that musical instrument you keep meaning to play and store it next to your couch
  • Keep a journal and pen by your bed
  • Keep a set of small weights by the couch
  • Keep a yo-yo or a set of juggling balls by the couch and learn a few party tricks
  • Put reading apps on the main screen of your phone or tablet and move all other apps into hard-to-reach places
  • Keep a letter-writing pad and a pen by your bed and catch up on some old-fashioned correspondence

What techniques have you tried to cut down how much time you spend looking at your phone? Let us know what worked and what didn’t in the comments.

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4 Comments on “Weekly roundup: Tips to stop checking your phone so often”

  1. mkw says:

    Last fall I banned my phone from the bedroom and it’s worked really well. I put my Kindle on my nightstand as a replacement, and have read more books in the last six months than I had in the last six years.

    Twitter inadvertently helped me use my phone less when they recently discontinued their Dashboard client. I stopped using Twitter on my phone after that happened, and now I use it mostly for listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

    • Belle B. Cooper says:

      Sounds like keeping your phone out of reach worked out well! I’ve also found this really helped in the past.

  2. Robby Macdonell says:

    Turning off notifications is really good, but I for me the best part wasn’t the most obvious. Sure, having less notifications means less external distractions pulling me away from something, but it’s also a really good opportunity to reflect on what I feel like I’m missing out on. Every time I do a notification purge, I think I’m going to miss something important. I almost never do.

    • Belle B. Cooper says:

      Great point! It’s hard to really know how much you need those notifications until you try living without them.