How to Have a Healthier Relationship with Your Phone

Let’s face it, most of us use our phone way too much, certainly much more than necessary. But trying to cut back on phone usage is difficult. That’s why I was excited to see that creating a better relationship with your phone was the topic of this week’s Pinkcast.

Dan Pink’s guest this week was Cal Newport. Cal is a professor of computer science at Georgetown University and one of my favorite authors. I’ve read two of his books, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World and So Good They Can’t Ignore: You Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. He also has a new book out, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, which I hope to read over the next month or so.

As you can tell, Cal’s books focus on how to be productive in a world where there are so many distractions, particularly digital distractions. He is the ideal person to offer some tips on how to better manage our phone use.

Cal notes that people who are happiest with their phones are those who use it instrumentally – something they deploy when they have a problem to solve, not a constant companion. In other words, they treat the phone as a tool, and not as a companion.

So how to do this?

Cal offers three basic tips:

  1. Take any app off your phone that makes money off your attention every time you tap it- these are primarily social media apps – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – you all know what I’m talking about. These apps were designed to capture our attention and to be addictive. So the best way to avoid the temptation is to simply remove it.
  2. Put your phone into “do not disturb” mode by default. This way, you check your phone when you are ready; you do not let your phone have access to your time and attention on its own terms. As Dan points out, you can customize the “do not disturb” feature by allowing certain contacts (spouse, kids, bookie) to get past the “do not disturb” setting.
  3. Leave the phone in the foyer by the front door with your keys and shoes. Again, you don’t need your phone to be your constant companion. With the phone in the foyer trick, your phone is close by if you need it, but you do have to go to the foyer to get it.

Here’s the video interview with Cam:

As I detailed in a previous post, I am guilty of using my phone way too much, so I am looking forward to trying these tips. I think I’ll start by moving LinkedIn, Facebook, and WordPress off my home screen. Next, I’ll try out how to customize the “Do not disturb” feature. Finally, at some point, I’ll try the “phone in the foyer”.

Even if I can cut back on its usage, I still want my phone next to me. Along with my glasses, my wedding ring, and my Apple Watch, my iPhone is just one of those things that have become a part of me, and I can’t imagine life without it being within an arm’s length of me.

*image from Mindful.org

10 thoughts on “How to Have a Healthier Relationship with Your Phone

  1. **Uninstalls wordpress app**
    hahahaha… I actually don’t have a wordpress app. I access wordpress in my phone through the browser.

    I agree that the phone should be seen as a tool instead of a companion. A tool used for entertainment… Oh, boy, that does not sound too productive, doesn’t it?

    The advice on social media apps is sound. It can get distracting when every once in a while the phone vibrates and disturbs whatever work we were doing, breaking our concentration and getting us out of the momentum.

    I, too, want to keep my phone at arm’s length.

    Thanks for these. Have a nice day.

  2. An interesting post. It really depends what you use social media for. I like to engage with other bloggers and writers on Facebook but limit my time there strictly. I like Instagram and check it when I have a moment in between other things i.e. only when I have spare moments. I love blogging but I also have set times for it.

  3. 🙂 I am not addicted to my smartphone.

    I use it to wake me up every morning at 3:00 AM.

    And, I use it occasionally to chat with friends on Skype.

    I am more of a laptop person.

    I learned the hard way, that social media applications take a heavy toll on one’s smartphone’s battery!

  4. This has become a common theme amongst many of us recently. Several have written about it including myself, from different angles yet like oh mind. I think we’re waking up to the toll it’s taking on our lives. Great post!

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