Today’s Solutions: November 26, 2022

It’s dawning on many of us that the way we engage with our phones simply isn’t healthy. According to data from Moment, a time-tracking app with almost five million users, the average person spends four hours a day on their phone. To make matters worse, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, more than half of partnered adults complain that they have to compete with devices for their partner’s attention!

In the spirit of building good relationships with people and our devices, it may be time to “break up” with your phone. Breaking up with your phone doesn’t mean you can’t be in each other’s lives—it just signifies the beginning of a new relationship with better boundaries, so that you can be more in control. 

According to Catherine Price, the author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life,” these are nine key lessons you should learn to create a better relationship with your phone.

Reframe the way you think about it

People tend to think of limiting access to their phones as a denial of pleasure, which has a pretty negative ring to it. Instead, try to conceptualize spending less time on your phone with having more time to do other pleasurable activities, like being present with your friends and loved ones, or working on a new hobby.

Ask yourself what you want to pay attention to

Every time we decide to pay attention to something, we are perpetuating the broader habits of how we spend our time. Think about how one of the major driving forces of most apps out there is to capture your attention in order to make money. The greater percentage of social media apps are free because the commodity for sale is actually your attention. The app developers know that your attention is valuable, so you should treat it that way by seriously considering: what do you want to pay attention to?

Set yourself up for success

Help yourself by reminding yourself of your goals. Instead of plugging in your phone by your nightstand, set up your charging station outside of your bedroom and put a book by your bed instead. If your excuse is that your alarm is on your phone, then invest in a stand-alone alarm clock, or use the fact that you’ll have to get out of bed and walk a bit to shut down that blaring alarm to wake yourself up effectively by minimizing the chances of falling back asleep.

You should also delete triggers that will set you up for failure. For example, get rid of social media apps from your phone, disable notifications, and refrain from getting your phone out during meals.

Create speed bumps

“Zombie checks” are what Price defines as those moments when we pick up our phones “just to check,” and end up snapping out of our infinite scrolling 20 minutes later. To avoid these unsatisfying, time-wasting zombie checks, create a “speed bump.” A speed bump is something that reminds you that checking your phone is a conscious choice. For instance, wrap a rubber band around your phone as a physical reminder, or set a lock screen image that asks you to consider if you really need to be on your phone.

Pay attention to your body

When you realize that you’re in the middle of a binge scroll, check in with your body by asking yourself: how’s your posture? What about your breathing? Is being on your phone making you feel good? Do you want to be on your phone? If you’re more in tune with your experiences at the moment, then changing your behavior won’t be so hard.

Practice trial separations

Practice leaving your phone behind while you go for a walk. Be intentional about looking out the window while on your daily commute instead of checking your email. If the intensity of your craving to check your phone surprises you, then lean into that craving. What does it feel like? What’s going through your mind? Pay attention to it and feel its power fade.

Use technology to protect yourself from technology

Use one of the many time-tracking apps on the market to measure how much time you’re spending on your screen. Apps like Freedom and Flipd allow you to block access to problematic apps and websites for when you want to take a break. Apple also offers a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode which will send customizable automated text message responses so you don’t have to worry about leaving people hanging, while Lilspace does the same for Android. 

Use other people checking their phones as a reminder of your own intentions

Instead of being triggered to check your phone when you see someone else on theirs, transform this cue into a reminder to take a deep breath and relax.

Get existential about it

A very effective strategy for when you’re really struggling is to consider your own mortality. Do you think there are many people laying on their deathbeds saying: “I wish I’d spent more time on this social media app”? Remind yourself that this is your real life. How much of it do you want to spend on your phone? 

 

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