It’s Not You, It’s Me: How to Break Up with Your Smartphone

In the last 15 years, smartphones have gone from an unaffordable luxury to a necessary tool considered as basic as a car or wallet. We have moved from a world where we carried around tools like calculators, watches, and maps to a universe where all those functions are performed by one tiny object the size of our palm. While this convenience is an undeniable benefit most of the time, our continued dependence on smartphones is becoming a worldwide issue.

Distracted drivers regularly cause accidents, and people are withdrawing further into the online world, spurning real-world connections. If you feel like you’ve become too enmeshed with your smartphone, we’re here to help. Here are some tips for how to have an amicable break up with your smartphone.

1. Don’t Ignore the Problem

The first step to coming to terms with your cellphone addiction is admitting you have a problem. If you check Facebook more than a few times a day, find yourself getting distracted during important conversations, or reach for your phone without even thinking about it, you have a problem. The next step is figuring what habits you want to change. Maybe you feel too reliant on social media for your self-esteem, or maybe you feel completely lost without consulting a map. If you know what aspects of this problem you want to work on, it’ll be much easier to figure out your first step.

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2. Install an App to See Your Daily Screen Time

There are plenty of useful tools that can help you determine exactly how you’re spending your time online. It seems counterintuitive to install another app to help wean yourself off apps, but bear with us. Apps like Moment or Checky will tell you exactly how much time you’re spending on your phone, as well as how much time you spend in your various apps. Chances are, once you’re confronted with the stark reality of how much time you spend on social media, you’ll be more motivated to step away.

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3. Take Steps to Limit Your Phone Usage

Once you’ve figured out where your screen time is spent, it’s time to limit your usage. Self-imposed rules like “I will only check social media twice a day” work for some people, but if you find yourself in need of more stringent guidelines, use your Moment app to impose strict rules or time limits on your daily usage. Moment will tell you when your self-imposed limit is up for the day, and the app can even send you little notifications if you spend more than 15 minutes at a time on your phone. There are even apps that completely shut down your phone’s Wi-Fi once you’ve reached a certain time limit.

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4. Delete Your Apps

If you realize you’re unable to limit your phone usage, or if you keep wasting time on the same apps, one drastic solution is to delete them. By deleting the app, you make it much more difficult to spend hours at a time online. If you can’t bring yourself to delete the apps completely, hide them in a folder – out of sight, out of mind.

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5. Turn Off Notifications

Fear of missing out is real – it was cemented into our psyches as kids and hasn’t let up since. Getting off your phone is hard when you’re getting notifications every minute of the day, reminding you of everything happening in the world without you. If you’re serious about spending less time on your phone, start by removing all but the most necessary notifications. Social media notifications are completely unnecessary; getting continual pings only reminds you of what you’re missing.

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6. Keep Your Hands Busy

If you find yourself mindlessly reaching for your phone dozens of times a day or regularly losing hours scrolling through social media, chances are you have too much time on your hands. Sure, phones are necessary for modern life, but don’t let them become a habit. The next time you find yourself with time on your hands, use it to research interesting new hobbies. Some awesome hobbies that have the dual benefit of keeping both your brain and your hands engaged are knitting, reading, computer programming, or learning a musical instrument.

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7. Hide Your Phone Until Your To-Do List is Complete

Another helpful trick to wean yourself off your smartphone is to physically hide it or remove it from your sight line. If it’s not right in front of you, the temptation to grab it and quickly scroll through is lessened. Hiding your phone and using it as a reward for accomplishing your to-do list is a great way to motivate yourself to finish tasks quickly, and it ensures you won’t get distracted along the way.

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8. Carry a Book or Magazine

One of the major problems with smartphones is they’re so portable, and they contain so much information that we can access anywhere, anytime. We’ll never get bored of our phones. This makes them excellent travel companions, but it’s become way too easy to just zone out on your commute or long trips. Instead, limit your screen time by carrying a book, magazine, or newspaper with you, so you’ll always have something you can be reading instead.

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9. Schedule Phone-Free Time Daily

If you’re continually having to choose between whether to pick up your phone or do something else, you’ll quickly succumb to decision fatigue and stop caring either way. Make your life a lot easier by designating certain times of the day “phone-free.” Sit down and track through your day, then draw up a list of times where you don’t want to be using your phone. Maybe it’s mealtimes, or even in the bathroom. Don’t make it an internal debate every time. Just stick to your list, and you won’t be forced to make a choice every single time.

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10. Turn Your Phone Off Before Bedtime

Being on your smartphone immediately before you go to sleep is a vicious cycle. The more you use your phone, the less sleepy you’ll feel thanks to its vibrant blue light – and when you wake in the middle of the night, you’ll probably reach for the phone. Help your body prepare for sleep by putting your phone away at least an hour before you intend to fall asleep. Don’t send out a flurry of text messages before bedtime, either. Waiting for incoming messages just elevates your stress levels, making sleep impossible.

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11. Enlist Friends and Family for Moral Support

Accountability is a huge part of setting successful, realistic goals. One of the best ways to ensure you stay on track in your quest to break up with your smartphone is to rely on your friends and family for moral support. Reach out to them, tell them about your new smartphone schedule, and ask them to adjust their expectations of your response time moving forward. It’ll alleviate any stress you feel from missing notifications or unplugging yourself from your phone.

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12. Acknowledge Withdrawal Symptoms

Once you try to limit your daily screen time, you’ll see how difficult it can be to step away. When we hear a sound or buzz, we immediately reach for our phone. We do it because we know there’s a chance something great will result from that message or notification. That upswing in dopamine causes a Pavlovian response that keeps us continually reaching for our phones. It’s important that you’re aware trying to change this response can cause short-term anxiety, distraction, and stress.

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13. Scare Yourself Straight

Struggling to break away from your phone? Another way to jump-start the process is to read some statistics about rates of distracted driving accidents. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed by a distracted driver. In that same year, the NHTSA reports that out of the estimated 660,000 people who texted and drove on a regular basis, 391,000 of them were injured. The less dependent we are on our phones, the less likely we are to be distracted – or hurt – by it while driving.

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May 7, 2018