What is one thing that is always on you and never leaves your side (even in the bathroom)? Your phone. Phones have become so important now that your bank accounts are linked to it; it is no more a luxury but a necessity. However, more often than not, we tend to overuse/becomes slaves to the very gadget that is supposed to enhance our lives. This affects not only the younger generation but everyone including senior citizens who are perpetually stuck to their precious Whatsapp groups of old school friends or extended family mirch-masala groups.

If you are one of them (you know you are) and would like to reduce the pull from constantly checking your phone during important life events, here are a few ways of doing it without losing your sanity.

Phones are meant to be addictive (much like gambling)

Well, you can be assured it is not just you, phones are made in such a way to draw you in more and more. Social media buzz (noise) does the same thing with constant Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Youtube notifications pinging away. There is always one more post to like, another emoji to send to friends in a group, always another related video to see in your feed, this is not new, the form is new but the human mind is the same and can be tactfully tackled. Some psychologists call it a “teddy bear syndrome”, the fear of being alone, the constant need of a comforter, like a teddy bear to a child.

Here is a video by Vox Media that helpfully explains phone addiction:

Now that you know that it is not just you but the environment itself that presents a challenge, we can move on to how to change the environment for us as well as bring about an inner shift.

Take Control of the Notifications

One of the best ways to “Have your cake and eat it too” is to eat it slowly, in bite-sized proportions. Can’t keep away from Whatsapp/Facebook pings? At the least learn to control them by muting groups that you don’t need to check constantly. This ensures that the notifications do not keep disturbing you. Just remember, no matter what app, you will always have a way to control it. In fact, some apps aren’t really even that necessary. Facebook can easily be checked on the web browser of your mobile, for example.

Mute Whatsapp notifications on Android and iOS and to keep Facebook pings in check in the app, and don’t forget to remove email notifications.

Image Source : usabilitygeek.com

We’ve all been here.


Schedule Your Time

As cliché as it may sound, this actually does help significantly. Sure you may not be able to say no to phones between 2 pm to 3 pm but you can certainly limit usage to every 15 mins or 30 mins. In fact, one of the best rules you can set relate to important events during the day. No phones allowed during dinner time, for example.

Image: Baylor University
Image: Baylor University

Apps to the rescue

If the above steps involve far too much inner awareness/motivation for you, perhaps something external would help? No need for psychiatrists. Ironically, something as simple as an app itself could be of great use to clamp down on phone usage. The idea is to keep track of what you are doing with your time, whether that be working, procrastinating or just locking down your phone for a specified time.

You could start with inbuilt tools like Apple’s Screen Time on iOS 12 or Google’s Digital Wellbeing apps on Android P to set limits and monitor your usage. Do you really need to spend 5 hours a day watching Netflix? Why is Facebook sending you 200 notifications a day? These apps put numbers to your daily usage and help put things in perspective.

There are also plenty of developers that offer this solution, AppDetox and OffTime do just that where you can set your own rules for an app. Mute on the other hand just encourages you to use your phone less with stats and motivations (iOS only)

Screenshots from AppDetox, OffTime and Forest app
Screenshots from AppDetox, OffTime and Forest app

Sounds too serious, how about gamifying it? The Forest app lets you stay focused by letting you grow a tree all the way to a full grown blooming forest depending on how much time you stay focused. (Android and iOS).

If that is too much, how about a reward-based system that rewards you for *gasp* being away from your phone? The Hold app aims to do just that with a social competitive twist, “Put your phone on HOLD, earn rewards and compete with your friends.” However, some users report that points don’t accumulate that well, and therefore your mileage for motivation can vary.

If the reward system is too flaky for you, how about an app that motivates you to work harder without distractions, no questions asked, no ifs and buts. Productivity Challenge Timer (Android/iOS) does just that to motivate you to work/study. It was created by the developer to help himself get his work done. How inspiring!

Screenshots from Hold, Space and Productivity Challenger Timer app

Screenshots from Hold, Space and Productivity Challenger Timer app

Other apps that offer similar functionality and might help you are Space (Android and iOS) and StayOnTask. Space lets you track your usage, revealing your “addiction score”  StayOnTask actually works on your conscience, reminding you not to procrastinate and get your work done.

Try the 30-day Digital Detox challenge

If you are still wondering whether the above would help or whether you really need to detoxify, why not try the Forbes 30 day digital detox challenge? This detox plan was created for someone who has a serious problem with disconnecting from their smartphones. Even if you aren’t one of them, there are some really helpful tips, suggestions and ways to double check yourself as to whether you are/aren’t addicted to your smartphone.

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