4 Simple Steps to Detach From Your Phone

Illustration by MUHAMMED FARES on [Behance](https://www.behance.net/gallery/96149719/General-Addiction)Illustration by MUHAMMED FARES on Behance

Like anything in life, Pareto’s principle applies to minimizing phone addiction as well — 80% of the gains come from 20% of activities. I’ve read countless articles on how to analyze your screen time insights to strategically block certain apps and so on. Heck, I’ve written a 3423-word article on the subject myself.

The problem is, few people are productivity geeks like me. They want simple steps. If a friend asks me how to spend less time on their phone, I can’t have a 30 min discussion with them explaining the complex app blockers they need and the systems they’ve to establish. That’s only for other geeks like me.

Meanwhile, my friends and others like them, need simple tips. This is why I identified the 4 things that make me in command of my time when it comes to using my smartphone.

Doing this will dramatically reduce your screen time, and will remove most possibilities of getting distracted.

1. Remove Social Media From Your Phone

I’ve long removed social media from my phone. And the reason is simple. Sittig behind each screen are thousands of top engineers who track your behavior meticulously to tweak your experience to be more addictive.

You can’t win the battle against them. They use a plethora of psychological tricks that take advantage of our subconscious and impulsive actions to get us back on the app. This is what makes social media so good.

A popular, yet ineffective, solution to social media addiction is to clean your feed. It’s like using the Marie Kondo method,

“Hold every person close to your heart and ask — ‘Does following this person bring joy to me on Instagram?’”

This approach is naive and underestimates the power of the app while overestimating your own willpower. Be wise and just remove it. I’ve uninstalled Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and countless others that went as soon as they came. You should do the same.

2. Disable 99% of Notifications, Alerts, and Other Bad Stuff

Notifications and little badges on your app screen are designed so you click on them without thinking — they’re red to grab your attention and they show you the number of notifications you have. They’re called hot triggers.

Before the advent of notifications, if you thought about checking your Facebook feed while you were working, you just pushed that thought aside — it was a relatively cold trigger. But now, the companies try to show an overwhelming amount of hot triggers to pull you away from whatever you’re working on.

The solution?

Disable the ones you don’t need. At least do it for social media apps (if you still have them), email, messaging apps, and anything similar. I’ve only let my calendar show me notifications because well, that’s the point of a calendar.

Note that most apps that I’ve allowed notifications to do not send a lot of notifications in the first place. For instance, the apps I use for investing, managing business bills, meditation, scanning documents, etc seldom interrupt my day. But when they do, it’s important.

If you need to post (say you’re a marketer, writer, etc) without being exposed to feeds, you can find plenty of solutions like OnlyPult.

3. Use Airplane Mode (or Other Complete Blockers)

In the modern world that we live in, there are bucket loads of input that we receive every day. Depending on your life, it can be daunting to wake up and receive a slew of notifications, messages, emails, and so on.

Each little message takes a little space in your brain. By the time you’ve read 10 of’em, your brain is cluttered. You can’t follow your morning routine, get into flow states or work on a creative project.

These notifications put a thought at the back of your mind which pokes at you until you act on it. Now then, the solution is simple —** only allow this barrage of input when you’re ready to tackle it.**

For instance, I avoid reading email, WhatsApp, or anything else before I meditate, exercise, and have hit my writing goal for the day (or some other task that requires deep work).

I do this using airplane mode or using OFFTIME (for android). I block certain apps till say, 9 or 10 am. Until then, I do things that are important to me.

Opening yourself to outside input bends your priorities to others’ mercy. Only do that once you’re ready to handle it.

4. Keep Your Phone On Silent Forever

The truth of life is — and it took me a while to get this — most calls that come are either:

  • Spam,

  • Unimportant, or

  • Can wait

If you don’t want all calls to go on silent, I recommend establishing whitelists on your phone. I too have a few ‘starred’ contacts (mom, dad, and sister). When they call, my phone definitely vibrates (still no ringtones!).

To accompany this setup, a handy feature on most phones is “Do Not Disturb” which vibrates (or rings) the phone when a person calls twice in 15 minutes.

In a nutshell, if anyone aside from my family calls, I’ll only pick up their phone if I have the phone in my hand. If not, they can drop me a message which I’ll see if I’m on my laptop. And if I’m not on the laptop, I’m anyway busy doing something that can’t be interrupted — meditation, sleep, etc.

In the past 2 years that I’ve kept my phone on silent, I’ve never faced a single negative consequence I can remember. The fear is only in your head.

Final Thought

These 4 tips are enough for you to break out of the shackles of your smartphone. The underlying principle we need to understand is two-fold.

First, we’re not as important as we think. The world will go on without us. People will solve their problems without us in 99.99% of the cases or they’ll call someone else.

Second, **social media, messages, emails, and the like are not as urgent as we think. **Everything and everyone can wait for a few hours. The world isn’t coming to an end. And if it were, believe me, you wouldn’t need to open social media to know that!

There’s no damage when you apply these things in your life. People can get a little annoyed, but that can be fixed. What can’t be fixed is lost time. Remember that.

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Written on April 26, 2021