How To Finally Break Your Phone Addiction

Desiree Peralta

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I’ll be honest with you, I had an addiction to my phone.

I could spend all day on any app without that being a problem for me. I spend hours and hours switching from Instagram to Twitter, from Facebook to Tiktok. I even think I have an account on every popular social network that currently exists.

And I’m not the only one going through this. American spends 5.4 hours each day on their phone, teenagers spend even much more, with some reaching over 12 hours a day.

The biggest problem is using it without getting any benefit from it. Only 10% use their cell phone to check their mail or work. Most of the people who are active on their phones all day are to hang out on social media, chat, or play games.

I realized that by using my cell phone all day, I was wasting a lot of time on the goals I wanted to achieve. Even using it for just 15 minutes every hour affected the performance of the task I wanted to work on, sometimes I told myself that I just wanted to rest a little bit and then spend a whole hour playing a game.

So I decided to make a change in this habit. I wanted to do more productive things in my day, I no longer wanted to spend idle hours scrolling the screen.

But how do you actually break your phone addiction? The good thing is you don’t need to delete all your social media apps to force yourself. In fact, I think this is the worst decision you can make to stop your addiction because when you think you can download the apps again, you will probably go back to what you were before.

In this article, I’m going to teach you all the things I did to finally break my phone addiction so you can apply it to your life too.

What Doesn't Work

I want to start the article by saying what tips don’t work to control yourself and what many people consider when they are trying to break the phone addiction.

The first one is “deleting all your social media apps”. As I said before, stopping using social networks by deleting them does not work because you are only forcing yourself to stop using them for a certain time. When you download it again, you will have the same habit of using them uncontrollably again.

Another thing that has happened to me when I deleted my social networks is to find any excuse to download them again. For example, a friend told me one time to review a photo he uploaded so I had to do it for him, or the government was going to implement something new and my friends asked me about my opinion, so I had to be informed.

Disappearing from social networks is not the solution, because something that is impactful and obligatory ends up getting tired quickly.

Another thing that I have tried and it does not work has been to put my cell phone in energy-saving mode and in airplane mode because I started having anxiety that something happened to my family and I could not be available to them. So on a mental health level, it would be even better to keep using my cell phone than to leave it in that way.

Identify the problem.

So let’s start with what works. The first thing I did to stop using my phone was to identify all the applications that were consuming me the most hours of my day. On your smartphones, you can see what percentage of your time you consume most of the charging time of your mobile.

On iPhone devices, to see this option go to settings -> battery.

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On Android, you can see this option in settings -> battery usage.

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Then I did a cleaning. The apps that were causing me anger and anxiety were removed, like Twitter and some games. And the apps that helped me entertain myself and hang out but were consuming my time were kept in a specific folder, like Instagram.

Knowing which applications were consuming the most time of my day helped me focus on a better strategy when using that application. For example, the application I used the most was a new game that I downloaded a few weeks ago. What I did was set a specific time to play that game, after I had completed my tasks for the day.

For social networks and messaging, which are applications that you can enter even several times a day, I planned the following tips that I’m going to detail in the next subtopics.

Turn off the notifications.

Let’s be honest, you don’t need Instagram or Facebook notifications. What are the benefits of knowing that someone liked your picture in real-time? None.

By having your notifications disabled on applications that are not important like social media or games you will not have the need of seeing what is happening with your friends every time your screen turns on.

For emails, put the notifications every 30 minutes. You don’t have to take your phone every 10 minutes if an email comes to your inbox, most of them are probably promotions or something that you can handle later.

For messaging applications, it is important that all groups are muted. It is not necessary to be checking what your friends are saying each time a notification arrives. I even mute almost everyone, so I only have notifications from people that I really have to answer if my cell phone rings, like my boss and my family.

If you talk to a friend all day about funny photos or your favorite music, you should probably mute it. Those kinds of conversations can wait.

This helped me not only to save my cell phone battery but also do not have to be aware of the screen every time it was turned on. Now I know that when my cell phone vibrates or rings, it is because something really important happened. If someone has an emergency, they would probably call.

Create task goals to use your phone.

I consider that turning off your phone or putting it in airplane mode as a way to force yourself is not a good practice. First, because if an emergency occurs they will not be able to contact you. And second, because from the moment you turn it on you will stay hours and hours reading all your pending notifications.

Instead, consider using your cell phone at key times of the day after you’ve done your to-dos. This has helped me a lot to prioritize my work and be more productive, with the aim of having a final prize, which is to be able to entertain myself a little.

Something I like to do is write a task and its completion time. If I manage to finish it before the scheduled time, I use the cell phone for the remainder of that time. If not, I only review important notifications for 5 minutes.

This has helped me automate tasks to finish my work faster. To prioritize my productive tasks in order to have more free time and to finish everything I have to do in less time.

If it is not necessary, don’t put it on your desk.

I can work smoothly during the day without the need to use my phone unless I am away from my computer. For this reason, I stopped having my phone on my desk. This helped me not to have the temptation so close and to be able to think twice to find the phone and use it.

Several studies say that people feel much better if the cell phone is not in the same room as them when they perform different tasks. Many people keep it in closets or even boxes. I understand that just leaving it on a table away from me is enough.

Even if you don’t want it, having your cell phone nearby creates the habit that you need to use it every 5 or 10 minutes. And every time you feel like you have free time, you are going to find a way to use it.

For this reason, I consider that if it is not necessary to have it nearby, it is best to put it on a table that you have to get up to take it, but it is sufficiently available in case of an emergency call.

Don’t use web applications while you are working.

I know many people who do not use their cell phones but spend the whole day on their computers with their social networks and open messages. That’s also an addiction, but on a different device.

I totally recommend in this case not to use or log in to any social network or messaging application that is not necessary to work. In this way we use our work devices only for that, to work.

This helped my brain to focus solely on working every time I sat at the desk, and I even started to be more productive on my tasks for the day, because I only had one thing to do there: work.

Studies indicate that your brain can be trained. For this reason, if you get used to using your computer every day to work at the same time under the same concentration, eventually, your brain will use its full potential for that time of day.

So if you get your brain used to using the computer only for work, it will focus more and more when you are in front of your screen without anything disturbing you.

Do alternative activities.

I looked for activities that could replace my cell phone habits. This helps control anxiety and focus on more productive things that can be helpful for personal growth.

Activities that helped me a lot was starting an exercise routine, which helped a lot to calm my anxiety. Read and watch movies. I also started a personal self-care routine every week. Going for a walk in the park without technology also helps you breathe and connect with the environment.

I also began to replace some cell phone applications with more personal and physical things. In this way, I tried to stop using the cell phone as something essential in my daily task. For example, I started using my camera again and started writing the grocery list on paper.

Other ideas that you can do to stop using the cell phone for basic activities can be to buy a physical agenda, paper books, and table games. This helped me rest my view of the screens that I am normally exposed to in my 8–5 work schedule.

Stopping using the cell phone all day has helped me focus on things that really matter, such as productivity in my work and personal projects, my physical health when exercising, and resting my mind and eyes on the display of screens.

In addition, I began to appreciate the potential of these devices more. Since many times we do not realize how important they have become in our lives and how necessary they can be even to ask for food at home.

I still love that technological world and maybe it will always be like that. But now the physical world also excites me: the one that has a space for boredom, quiet hands, and moments to reflect.

I no longer feel phantom vibes in my pocket or dream about checking my Twitter responses. I see people in the eye and listen to people when they speak to me. I get on the elevator without being distracted with something in my hands. And, when I get engrossed in my cell phone, I notice and correct it.

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Turning ideas into reality. Programmer by profession, Writer by passion. Writing, productivity, and self-development advice.

Yonkers, NY
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