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Break Your Phone Addiction to 10X Your Productivity & Mood

by Michael Leonard on June 24, 2021

Steve Jobs meant well when he unveiled the beautiful iPhone in 2007. His goal was to connect people more than ever before and it changed Apple (and the world) forever.

But now, it’s easy to argue that smartphones have actually made us less connected than ever before. More than a decade later, so many people are slaves to our devices and they’ve changed so many aspects of everyday life… some of which are extremely harmful to our mental health.

Here are some alarming statistics about smartphones according to PsychGuides,

  • 71% of people sleep with or next to their cell phones.
  • 60% of U.S. college students consider themselves to have a cell phone addiction.
  • Nearly 40% of people never disconnect from cell phones, even while on vacation.
  • 35% of people think of their cell phones when they wake up, while only 10% of people think of their significant others.

Don’t get me wrong, phones make our lives exponentially easier as well. You can click an app to get a ride anywhere from Uber or Lyft, get food delivered to your door, and millions of other things that were never thought possible.


But for some of us, too much phone usage creates a negative ripple effect in our lives.

Look around in a crowded area and most people are scrolling their phones… constantly checking for emails, notifications, and texts. This can lead to lower productivity, less time with the people that matter, increased risk for anxiety, and all kinds of other negative effects.

When you learn to control your phone usage, you can control more of your life, emotions, and productivity. The good thing is that there are tons of ways to break your phone addiction, as millions of people want to break their addiction.

Here are five science- backed strategies to help you control your phone so it doesn’t control you.

 

How to Break Phone Addiction

1. Do a Digital Cleanup

The first thing to ease into minimizing your phone usage is to clear out apps that are killing time. Start by checking your phone settings to see which ones take the most of your time and energy.

Then, delete them, move them off your home screen, and/or set a limit for the amount of time you will use that app. This small step can make a huge difference almost overnight.


Once you do a digital cleanup, don’t forget to take it one step further and unfollow certain accounts or websites that make you feel poorly too. As a Healthline article said, “Be mindful of what you are consuming. If you notice that the content you follow is causing your anxiety to spike, you reserve the right to turn your attention elsewhere.”

Don’t feel compelled to follow certain people or businesses either. If you don’t want to unfollow, you can always mute them as well.

Make it a goal to only follow people, brands, and accounts that make you feel good about yourself. If they bring out any negative emotions, get rid of them as soon as possible.

 

2. Turn Off Notifications

One of the worst parts about excessive phone use is the direct impact on productivity.

All of a sudden you’re in a flow state, working on a project, cranking out some of your best work… until you get a notification. You check the notification, then without even realizing it, decide to check your email or social media. 5-10 minutes later you spaced out and can’t seem to get back in the zone.

The reason?

Checking your phone and getting out of your flow state leads to context switching. Also known as multitasking, this is extremely taxing on your brain and kills productivity.

While it might not feel like a big deal at the time, studies have shown that constant context switching crushes productivity (20-80% according to Rescue Time).

The same article from Rescue Time breaks down exactly how context switching negatively affects your productivity:

  • Focusing on one task at a time = 100% of your productive time available.
  • Task switching between two tasks at a time = 40% of your productive time for each and 20% lost to context switching.
  • Task switching between three tasks at a time = 20% of your productive time for each and 40% lost to context switching.

Even though notifications seem innocent, the domino effect of checking one notification can crush your productivity. By turning off push notifications, it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce phone time and get more done in less time.

 

3. Hide Your Phone During Meetings and Social Gatherings

Now that indoor dining is a thing again, make sure to not let your phone take away from in-person interaction. A study done by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology tested 300 people to do a dining experiment. Some had their phones on the table and used them during the meal, while others didn’t.

The results were pretty incredible.

The ones who did use their phones ended up on them 11% of the meal, largely due to checking notifications. Plus, when comparing the two groups, the ones that used their phones had a clear dip in pleasure too.


But here’s my favorite quote from the study, “This research suggests that despite their ability to connect us to others across the globe, phones may undermine the benefits we derive from interacting with those across the table.”

Not only is having your phone out rude in my opinion, it also takes away from your experience and lowers your overall enjoyment. To me it acts as a subconscious queue and having it on the table (even face down) makes you more likely to mindlessly check instead of being in the moment.

Keep your phone in your pocket and off the table for the benefit of you and everyone else at the table. Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve also found that it creates a positive ripple effect and others put them away too.

 

4. Turn Your Phone Off 30+ Minutes Before Bed

Another way to tell if you’re addicted to your phone is if it’s the last thing you think about before bed and first thing when you wake up. As the PsychGuide study from before said, “35% of people think of their cell phones when they wake up, while only 10% of people think of their significant others.”

Not only can this affect your relationship with your significant other, but it could affect your sleep patterns too. According to SCL Health, using a phone before bed has a ton of negative side effects on your health, including:

  • Increased alertness, which makes it harder to sleep.
  • Blue light restrains the production of melatonin that controls your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Puts your next day alertness in jeopardy and usually hunts down caffeine just to make it through the day.

The solution is simple… Ditch your phone 30+ minutes before bed to get better sleep and wake up feeling rested.

Also, if you struggle to sleep and find yourself reaching for it in the middle of the night, put it in a drawer or different room (and buy an alarm clock). I did this and it made it so much easier to go back to sleep when I woke up in the middle of the night.

 

5. Take a Full Day Digital Detox

The last strategy you can use to break your phone dependency is a full-day digital detox. Simply put your phone in a drawer and don’t look at it all for the entire day (or a specific time period).

I’ll be the first to say that this was the hardest one for me and created some anxiety the first few hours of the detox. But as more and more time went on, I actually didn’t think about it as much and felt more free, almost lighter without anxiety.


If you can’t commit to a full day digital detox, start with 1-2 hours, then build up your “tolerance” to being on your own. When you’re not on your phone, do things like:

  • Find an exercise class.
  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Write in a journal and get clear about your goals.
  • Go on a walk in nature to reconnect and recharge.

Having a set plan will make your digital detox much easier than if you’re sitting at home thinking about your phone. Schedule events strategically so that you’re not tempted to get on your phone sooner.


Remember, your phone should make your life easier, not harder.

While it’s easy to get distracted mindlessly scrolling through your phone, do your best to pull yourself out of the habit sooner than later. The answer isn’t to stop using your phone entirely, it’s to make sure that you are controlling it, not the other way around.

When you use some of these tricks, it’ll make the process much smoother. Eventually, you can get to the point where you’re at peace without your phone and have more mental clarity than ever.

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