Isn’t it funny how when we were 12, we were all desperate for our mums to buy us our very first Nokia 3310 (so we could play Snake with our friends and download the midi ringtone of The OC theme song, obvs)? But now, as adults with fancy smartphones that do pretty much anything you could imagine, all we want is to use our phones less!
With social media being so deeply interwoven into our everyday lives, our digital devices have basically become extensions of ourselves. And while, of course, there are benefits (it’s easier than ever to stay connected with our friends and watch cute animal videos on the go), our reliance on our smartphones is not without its downfalls.
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Research shows that the average millennial checks their phone around 150 times per day—and that doing so is making us less intelligent, more antisocial, unhappier and unhealthier. So… obviously that’s not ideal. It’s the reason so many of us are doing regular digital detoxes where we stay off our devices. While these a great start—let’s be honest, staying off our phones for a few hours or a day per week isn’t going to undo effects of constantly being plugged in.
In order to really kick our smartphone addictions to the curb, we need to be more intentional about how we use them on a day-to-day basis. Of course, that can be easier said than done when reaching for our phones every 10 seconds is such a deeply ingrained habit. That’s why we’ve compiled these 5 simple hacks to trick yourself into using your phone less.
By far the easiest way to trick yourself into staying off your digital devices (specifically, your social media apps) is to literally block yourself from them. Apps like Freedom or SelfControl allow you to select which apps you want to block and for how long and they’ll auto-shut down when you try to open them. Your brain will get the hint eventually!
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This one is so simple, yet so effective. Do you really need a notification every time your mum tags you in yet another meme, or you get a newsletter from that store you’re pretty sure you unsubscribed from, or you receive 100 messages from the group WhatsApp convo? We think not. These things are rarely urgent and they simply distract you from what you’re doing. Put it this way, research shows that it takes around 25 minutes to get refocused on a task when you’re distracted. So, if you’ve got your notifications on and you’re checking them, you’re pretty much asking to get nothing done. Go ahead and turn them all off now—trust us, you won’t miss anything.
“But what if I DO miss something and my friends/mum/partner/clients think I’m ignoring them?” you may say. That’s where this next point comes in! Try having set times each day where you check your emails, messages and social media feeds—three times a day is a good rule of thumb. Then, when you’re going through these notifications, make sure you action every single one (whether it’s replying, deleting or flagging for later). Not only will doing so improve your focus throughout the day, it will give you peace of mind that every single notification is dealt with.
How often do you absentmindedly open Facebook or Instagram on your phone, when you literally just opened it ten seconds ago? Yep, old habits die hard! But what if that app just didn’t exist on your phone? After a few attempts to check it, your mind would eventually catch up and you’d no longer have the impulse to do it. Chances are, you’re not going to go to the effort of opening and logging into those websites in your browsers. Notice we don’t say that you have to delete your entire social media account— you don’t have to go off the grid entirely. You can still have them and check them on your computer at those set times per day. You’ll simply no longer do it a billion times per day.
The simple act of not having your phone in your hand when you’re walking around or on your desk at work can go a long way. By keeping it in your handbag or storing it in a desk drawer, you’ll be forced to think twice about it if you really want to check your phone. Most of the time, you’ll realise you can’t be bothered and will go back to the task you were going on. The same goes for leaving your phone at home when you don’t really need it (for example, if you’re going for a walk or just walking down to the shops). It feels good to be alone with your own thoughts every now and again!