This time last year, I found myself using my iPhone for just about everything. It was my e-reader, my preferred way to handle emails, my TV, and so much more. My phone was no longer just a tool, but a digital environment in which I spent large amounts of time.
As I used my phone more and more, I realized that it was starting to negatively impact my life. I was spending so much time glued to my screen that I was foregoing regular exercise, socializing with friends in person, and even falling behind on work. It was time to do something about it.
Step 1: Decide a primary use for the Phone
I was using my phone for everything, but it was time to plan an approach that would turn my iPhone into a tool to enhance my life, not avoid it. Since my phone felt like its own space, it made more sense to me to think about it as an extra room in my house. What did I want this spare room to be? Did I want it to be a gym? Did I want it to be a library? A black room to develop photos?
I ended up going with a wellness center. Which meant making my iPhone the epicenter of everything relating to my physical and mental health. Whatever you decide the primary purpose of your phone will be, the important thing is to decide.
According to Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking Fast and Slow, by deciding how you would like to act in certain environments and taking the proper steps to make that happen. You can use the human tendency to automatically react to environmental cues to your favor.
Of course, your phone will not only serve one single purpose. After all, it can do it all. The point is to be more deliberate about how, when, where and for what purposes you use your phone.
Step 2: Identify Time Wasting Apps
In order to get myself to a point where I was using my phone in the way I wanted to, I first had to figure out what apps I currently spent the most time with. I always had a hunch that I was using Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube a bit too much. But I never really saw it as a problem, until I looked at exactly how much time I was spending on each app every single day. Let me show you how I figured it out, follow me.
Settings -------> Battery ------> Battery usage -------> 7 Days ------> Clock Icon
Now looking at "time on screen" what app is your biggest time sink? Is it Reddit? Is it Instagram? Oh. It was something else entirely? Before we go any further, a couple of other points to consider when reviewing your app usage this way...
Battery efficient apps
By default, the apps on this screen are ordered by what percentage each took in battery consumption. So definitely scroll down the list to see what time draining apps might be hiding further down.
How you use an app matters
While the Battery Usage menu gives you an idea of what apps you are spending time with. It doesn't tell you how you are using the apps. For example, you might use YouTube to watch exercise videos at the gym, Instagram to run business development, Twitter as part of customer support, the list goes on. Keep these special use cases in mind when looking at your results.
Step 3: Remove Time Wasting Apps
No matter how much I would like to tell myself that there is some productive use for having Reddit on my phone (trust me I've tried). Reddit and a lot of other apps like it are great forms of relaxation. There is nothing wrong with relaxing, we actually need plenty of it in order to function at our best. The issue for me, however, was having one touch access to these apps. Seeing apps like YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter on the first page of my home screen was subconsciously telling me that instead of whatever I should be doing, it was instead a better idea to just relax, even if it was just for a minute...
It was NEVER just for a minute.
Studies conducted by psychologists from Stanford and Yale confirm that certain objects in our environment can directly influence our decisions. The results also discovered that even pictures of these objects can have the same influence. The study explains that more than the object itself, the connotations that people have about the object, can influence decision making. App icons are just pictures representing activities but think about the attached connotations... When we are exposed to apps representing entertainment an/or procrastination daily on our phones, how do you think they will influence our decisions?
Going back to Step 1, think of what you said you wanted the primary purpose of your iPhone to be. Now remove as many time-wasting apps as you can that are not aligned with that. While completely uninstalling all highly addicting apps from your phone is the best case scenario. Just removing some of them from the first page of your home screen will help a lot. You are basically removing the visual trigger that is the app icon itself, which will lead to a significant reduction in the number of times you open up an app.
Step 4: Turn off notifications
Turning off notifications is the best thing you can do for the highly addictive apps that do stay on your phone. For instance, I feel completely comfortable leaving Instagram installed on my phone because I have removed it from the first page of my home screen and I have disabled all of its notifications that used to hook me into opening up the app.
However, Instagram is not the only app to use notifications to hook users. It's a really common practice across all of the most addictive apps. In his best selling book Hook, Nir Eyal details just how companies design their products to be highly addictive. The tl;dr is that notifications are the key to getting users to spend ungodly amounts of time in an app. So with that in mind. Let's open up
Settings --> Notifications
and pick out the apps that you know utilize notifications to tempt you into using them. Once you are inside a specific app's notification page. You have some flexibility as to how strict you want to be. The best case scenario is to completely disable all notifications. But you might have some reasons for allowing some types of notifications to go through. Definitely experiment as to what works best for you.
Step 5: Put it away
After devoting a month to building better habits around how I use my phone. I'm now at a point that whenever I'm engaging with work, a hobby, or the people I love, my phone is usually off and out of sight. Studies have proven that even while not in use, just seeing your phone can have a cognitive strain, not allowing you to fully engage with your environment. Of course it's not always feasible to turn your phone off and put it away when working, out with friends etc. Below are two tricks that I've used when I absolutely "need" to have access to my phone.
If you need to use your phone for work, I highly recommend you turn your display to Greyscale. It's really discouraging to use your phone for distractions when the screen is in black and white.
If you've taken a vacation abroad recently without buying a 4G connection of some kind. You know first hand the power of having your phone but without all the distractions of a mobile internet connection. Why not bring this level of (dis)connectedness when we are back home? Think of how much more you will get out of life by really engaging 100% with every moment.
Next time you are going to spend some quality time with friends or family. Think about putting your phone in airplane mode, or even leaving your SIM card behind altogether. Don't worry you will still be able to Snapchat, Instagram, and much more. Most social media apps save your outgoing post and upload automatically when you are back online.
Like most articles on the web, I'm not really telling you anything new or groundbreaking here. To be honest all of us, with any kind of problems, know exactly what we should do to solve them. It's just a matter of taking action.
I hope that this article acts as a catalyst for you to set up a better relationship with how, when, where and for what purposes you use your iPhone. If you haven't already, please checkout the books and studies I used to write this article. Lastly, if this article made your life better in any way, please share it with two other people in your life that you think might benefit from the message.
Now close this tab and go outside or something ;)