The average smartphone user checks their phone a whopping 110 times a day. This thought echoed through my mind as I was eating breakfast in my apartment the other morning, the smooth sounds of Lionel Richie permeating the air, my trusty phone in hand. I was texting, sipping my 1% milk, eating, talking to my girlfriend, and listening to "All Night Long" simultaneously—like a goddamn circus juggler—when disaster struck: my hand slipped, dropping my treasured phone right into my half-full glass.
This had to be a sign. My excessive iPhone use was becoming a problem I needed to solve. I began my quest for knowledge to rid myself of this seemingly out of control addiction, and what I found are these 13 important, everyday tips to help kick the Cupertino Crack™. Hopefully, this list helps you as much as it has helped me.
1. Never use your phone as your alarm clock
We all know how it goes: once you're done dealing your standard wave of 20 snoozes, you flick off the alarm, and go straight to browsing: Instagram, email, videos of baby elephants—you’ve already bogged yourself down with a tech overload before your feet hit the floor. If you want to distance yourself from your tech in a meaningful way, you need to nip the problem in the drowsy bud. And since so many of us literally wake up with our phone in our hands, this is the first place to start cutting back.
2. Stop checking your emails before work
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous submission—and it’s admittedly a doozy. I am as guilty of this as anyone, as I immediately check my email when I get out of bed (even before I get out of bed, in most cases). But honestly, after trying this out for a few days, I noticed nothing had changed at all. I got to my morning emails, what—an hour and a half later? Unless you're the CEO of your company or a neurosurgeon on call, you can probably afford to wait till 9am to get back to someone. In fact, some countries have made off-hour work emails a criminal offense. Seriously.
3. Remove those excess apps
Having instant 'round the clock access to Facebook is as superfluous as a nipple on my elbow. As a wise man on the Internet once said, Facebook is like the fridge—you check it every 15 minutes, even though you know nothing’s there. By eliminating time-wasters and attention suckers, you can rid yourself of the urge to draw your smartphone from your pocket every three minutes out of pure impulse.
4. Actually, don't bring your phone into the bedroom at all
If you're having trouble keeping your paws off your screens in the AM, start by cutting yourself off at night. Leaving your phone out of the boudoir not only gives you another clearly defined tech-free time/zone, it makes sure the unnatural light doesn’t mess with your circadian rhythm, leading to better sleep. Keep your bedroom a sanctuary. After all, it is where the magic happens (according to MTV Cribs, which would never lie to me).
5. Turn off (or customize) notifications
You don't need an obtrusive bleep or buzz every time your bar mitzvah #TBT gets some love. It only makes you more apt to whip out your phone and get nose-deep in a vicious tech circle of texting, email checking, and lord knows what else. You can disable in-app notifications in your main settings menu (under the App section), or customize them for only the important stuff. As far as calls and texts go, one viable solution I've been using is setting custom vibrations for certain people. So, I can tell if it's someone important (like my girlfriend, or the neighborhood dog catcher) without taking my phone out of my pocket. You can make your own custom vibes by selecting a contact, then the "Vibration" option, underneath "Ringtone."
6. Airplane mode will set you free
This is another answer for people too scared to leave their phones behind completely. Basically, you'll be left with just a combination clock/camera. If you really want to focus on a task at hand, or just need to make sure no one bothers you for an extended period, just switch on airplane mode, and let it ride. Try doing this while you're driving, in social situations, or watching TV, and gradually extend your "Airplane time" to other activities. It's all about conditioning yourself to a life less cluttered with phone time, and Airplane mode is an excellent stepping stone on your way to mindfulness.
7. Keep it in your pants during meal times
If you can’t bear to leave your phone behind completely, it’s cool—I get it. But you should at least demarcate some specified “no-phone” times or zones. An obvious option is during meals, lest you wind up like me, with a milk-soaked iPhone. And also, we all talked: you need to stop Instagramming your depressing #worklunches. Killing two harmful birds with one stone, here.
8. Keep the bathroom tech-free
Pooping before smartphones, for many, might seem outright barbaric. Anecdotally, I can assume that nixing your phone from your toilet routine can cut down on deuce-time by a solid 75%, and is a nice way to find a quiet space, free of technology. Read a book, or one of those paper iPads (I think they’re called newspapers?). And anyway, it’s not sanitary. There’s fecal matter in the air!
9. Turn off your email when you don't need it
When you knock off work for the weekend, it might not be a bad idea to turn your email off completely. Go to your settings, then to "mail," and switch off the green toggle button to stop the flow of emails (till you switch it back on again, of course). You won't get any notifications, and no new emails will show up in your phone's inbox. This is particularly helpful because it lets you designate mailboxes, so you can keep your personal emails (like hot singles in your area with free iPads) while nixing all the stressful, time-sucking work stuff.
10. If you really can't help yourself, buy a minimalist phone
There are hardware options out there for people who simply can't help themselves, designed to give users the cell phone bare bones, without all the distracting accoutrements like Facebook and Snapchat. One solid option is the Punkt MP01, an ideal way to hold onto the convenience and safety of cell phones without the unnecessary extras. It's one step up from a brick phone, and one streamlined step down from a regular smartphone (that's a good thing, in this case).
11. Limit your usage with an app
Ironically, there are smartphone apps designed to help you use your smartphone less. What a bizarre and confusing future we live in, right? These can actually be pretty useful in your quest to cut down, though. Apps like Moment run in the background of your phone and track your usage time. Eventually, if you find you are using your phone too much, you can set the app to limit your usage on certain apps, or even shut down your phone all together. Damn you, Moment—you are stern, but fair.
12. Keep a low charge and set a passcode
Don't laugh! While it may not be beneficial for your battery, keeping your phone at a low charge will physically prevent you from using it for extended periods at a time. If you know you aren't packing much juice, you'll only use your phone for emergencies. Setting a passcode that is required every time your phone is locked (and disabling the fingerprint recognition on newer phone models) can be a minute but effective way to prevent you from subconscious phone checking. It will dissuade you from taking it out every minute or so, and force you into using your phone when you need it, then putting it away for extended periods afterwards.
13. Just leave your phone at home sometimes (gasp!)
Easier said than done, I know. But this is quite possibly the only true way to cut back on your usage altogether. Putting your phone in a drawer, or in another room, can only do so much. And look, I get it. Going cellphone commando is nerve-racking, as there's many-a-benefit to having your phone at your side—including safety. But, you definitely will find yourself in situations where your phone is just not needed.
A walk in the park, a trip to the coffee shop, even meeting up with your friends at the bar for a quick brewski—try leaving your phone at home, I promise it stops being weird after 20 minutes. You just end up getting used to it. Then, when you decide to actually bring your iPhone out again, you'll be accustomed to not using it so frequently. You’ll be surprised at how good it feels to not have the weight of the world inside your pants, weighing down your spirit, and dragging down your soul. Phone-free is the way to be. Well, at least some of the time.