While you may not have full-blown Cell Phone Addiction, if you’re like most smartphone users you check your phone at least 58 times per day (according to data from RescueTime), and receive 46 push notifications (according to Business of Apps – although that number seems low to me).
While it’s great to be able to keep up on the latest news, sports scores, emails, and cat pictures, these phone breaks are costing you. Research published by the American Psychological Association shows that “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.” So if you’re switching your focus from work, family, or friends to your phone 58 times a day, imagine how much you’re losing out on!
Simply going cold-turkey on your phone usage isn’t realistic for most, however. So how does one retake control of their time? I’ve been focusing on this lately, and while the road is slow and often uncomfortable, I’ve found ways to spend more quality time on my work and relationships.
Remove Apps You Don’t Need on Your Phone
While every website, news outlet, and social media platform has an app, you’re not required to have all of these on your phone, and might even be better off without them. For instance, I noticed that every time I was waiting for something – a slow website to load, the microwave to finish, or the light to change at a crosswalk – I would bring up Reddit to see what was new. “This is productive!” I told myself. “I’m checking up on my interests during time I’d otherwise spend doing nothing!”
But I would always spend longer than the ninety seconds the microwave needed. And even when I would put my phone down after the slow website loaded, I’d still be thinking about whatever AMA I had just been reading.
So I deleted Reddit from my phone. For a few days I still found myself looking for something to do in those seconds of limbo, but eventually I got some of my patience back and was able to wait for lights to change and pages to load without something to distract me.
And Reddit hasn’t gone anywhere – I can still check in on my desktop. An added bonus to this is that I’m more aware of what I’m doing when visiting the web version of the site, and when I find myself typing in the URL, I ask myself why I’m doing so at all. More than half the time I realize that I’m just looking for a distraction, and this awareness has helped to reduce my habit of procrastination.
Use Do Not Disturb Mode
But those apps and functions that I have left on my phone – Messenger, Instagram, basic phone calls – can still be distracting. Flashing lights, vibrations, and beeps can still pull me away from whatever else I’m trying to do, and trap me in the digital world for a few minutes.
Sometimes, like when I’m hanging out on the couch, this is no big deal. But when I’m trying to focus, sleep, or enjoy time with my family, these distractions just get in the way, and really aren’t contributing to my life. So I’ve learned to embrace Do Not Disturb (DND) mode.
This function can block all notifications, including those that appear on the lockscreen. In both iOS and Android you can schedule DND to automatically turn on and off on a set schedule (like when you’re sleeping, or during working hours).
And if you’re concerned about missing an important call or message, don’t worry – there are built-in tools to help alleviate that anxiety. You can change the settings to allow calls and messages from certain people to come through, or when a number calls you twice in the span of 15 minutes on Android, or 3 minutes on iPhone.
I’ve even taken things one step further, and have installed Tasker on my Android phone. Using this automation app, I have set my device to automatically go into DND mode whenever it is face down, making it easy for me to quickly ensure that my focus will not be broken.
Mindfully Organize and Arrange Apps
In an effort to spend less time on my phone, I wanted to ensure that it’s easy to find everything I need — and to avoid timesinks. So using Dale Carnegie’s advice that an hour of planning can save you ten hours of doing, I took some time to organize all of my apps. Rather than being spread randomly across an array of screens, I organized them into folders by category. I also set the most important and least distracting ones to be on my home screen.
So now, rather than being faced with fifteen Instagram notifications as soon as I unlock my phone, all I see is Audible, my spending tracker, and a few other frequently-accessed apps that won’t send me into a downward spiral of scrolling.
“It is utterly impossible for any human mind, no matter how brilliant, to think about more than one thing at any given time.” – Dale Carnegie