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6 Lessons from “How to Break Up with Your Phone”

There are numerous articles about the topic, but according to recent studies, Americans check their phones as often as 96 times per day. That’s once every ten minutes. Think about how reaching for your phone every ten minutes does to your productivity, relationships, and attention. But what would happen if you decided to reclaim your attention by using your phone less? 

The book How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price focuses on the weird connection we have with our phones. For a lot of people, the phone screen is the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing they see before falling asleep. Interacting with our phones has become so natural that if we feel slightly bored, we compulsively reach for our pockets. As if all of our questions, problems, or worries could be solved by scrolling through our social media feeds. You’re not alone and over the course of 11 chapters, the author gives you a series of tools to combat your phone addiction in the form of a breakup plan.

Price dedicates the first series of chapters to explain how our phones negatively impact every aspect of our lives, such as sleep and memory. Once she identifies the most toxic parts of smartphone usage, she suggests trying to develop self-awareness. Other suggestions include deleting social media without deleting our online presence and avoiding “fear of missing out”.

The most fascinating part about the book though is the 30-day breakup plan. The plan is essentially a series of tips you follow over the course of a month to stop using your phone irresponsibly. Hopefully, at end of the plan, you’ll find yourself with free time that you can dedicate to healthier habits. I’m referring to the plan in a broad manner because I want to encourage you to read the actual book. Here are my favorite tips from the book:

Use a tracking app

We all know we use our phones a lot. Instead of guessing though, we can use a tracking app to get exact numbers. By using a tracking app you can see how often you pick up your phone, how much time you spend on it, and which apps you use the most. Once you have hard data, you can start thinking about how you want to use your phone from now on.

Pay attention

Paying attention encourages you to notice how you feel before, during, and after even using your phone. Do you use your phone when you’re waiting in line, waiting in an elevator? What do you expect to get from your phone? It may sound like a lot, but by answering a series of questions and noticing our emotions, we’ll spot consistent triggers that lead to the same habit. For example, are you using your phone as an escape mechanism from problems? Do you use your phone when worried or anxious? Does using your phone make you feel better or worse in those situations?

Delete social media apps

We all know social media’s bad for us, but we can’t stop using it. Once you identify the social networks you use the most, the author suggests deleting all social media apps from your phone. That said, you can download them back once the plan is over and you can still use social media through your phone’s browser. The idea behind this tip is to create friction, in other words, make social media hard to access.

Disable notifications

According to the author, phone notifications “use our brains’ natural ability to associate cues with rewards (…) to get us to compulsively check our phones.” Therefore, when our phone rings, we want to stop doing what we’re doing to check it and be rewarded somehow. By disabling most notifications that feeling is gone.

Charge your phone in a room other than the bedroom

Checking their phones is the thing that most people do first thing in the morning and right before falling asleep. So instead of sleeping close to our phones, we should set up a charging station somewhere else. As a consequence, we won’t be able to check internet-enabled devices early in the morning and late at night.

Use an app blocker

An app-blocker is a digital tool that blocks access to the sites/apps you’d like to spend less time using. Personally, I use browser extensions that block access to certain sites when I want to work or write. Some app blockers let you limit their use and in some cases, you can schedule a given session. Do you want to stop checking social media before going to bed? Use an app blocker to block those apps from 6 pm onward.

Again, these are some of the tips the book suggests to use your phone less. I found that while I don’t agree with everything included in the 30-day plan, you can try some of the recommendations and see if they work for you. For those interested in following a much more strict proposal, you can always check out the entire book.

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