I got an iPhone in 2009. It made my life better. Richer! More fulfilled. I was able to connect with friends outside of my house. I was able to read an article while waiting in line. I was able to answer questions from my restaurant chair.
Ten years later I’m a full fledged cell phone addict.
My thumbs hurt, my eyes are strained, and the hunch in my back is getting pointier. It’s gotten so bad I now ask my wife to hide my cell phone from me for evenings, days, or sometimes weeks at a time. (I did a two week stretch last summer and after a day of anxiety it was supreme bliss.)
Let me be as clear as I can.
Cell phone addiction is lowering resilience, increasing anxiety, and adding to our stress levels.
I have already written articles on 6 Ways To Reduce Cell Phone Addiction and 3 Ways To Fight Cellphone Addiction In Schools.
Today I’m going to get into brass tacks.
Here are seven tactical ways you can make your phone less addictive with the exact step-by-step photo-guided tour of doing each one. I made these for an iPhone because that’s what I have but most of these can be done on other phones as well.
7. Delete a social media app
Step 1: Gently push the button on a social media app (like Instagram) till it starts shaking in its boots
Step 2: Click the little x in the top left corner
6. Set up text replacement shortcuts
What’s one way to get off your cell phone? Spend less time texting on your cell phone. Text replacement shortcuts are tiny phrases you create which then pop into longer phrases that you use often.
Step 1: Click Settings
Step 4: Click Text Replacement
Step 5: Create Text Replacements. Samples include ad (insert your full mailing address), em (insert your email address), and even something specific to your job or industry such as dec (insert your standard paragraph to respectfully decline an invitation).
5. Turn your phone to black and white
According to National Eye Institute, when we turn our phones from color to black and white we make them less addictive. They look less like slot machines! And more like low-fi functional devices.
Step 1: Click Settings
Step 3: Click Accessibility
Step 4: Click Display Accommodations
Step 5: Click Color Filters
Step 6: Turn Color Filters On and click Grayscale
PS. Too hardcore? If you like the idea of going black and white, but want to keep color handy for occasional use, then here’s a setting to help. Go Settings — Accessibility — Accessibility Shortcut — Color Filters. What’s that do? It lets you triple-click the side button on your phone to swap between settings. Pa-zam!
4. Download the Forest app
One of my favorite apps to help with cell phone addiction is Forest because it essentially closes down your phone whenever you want to create a nice block of productivity. It’s called Forest because a tiny seed growing into a sapling grows into a tree while you’re using the app. And if you start using your phone again? You kill the tree. This tiny bit of visual damage prevents you from cheating. And studies such as this one show alerts are impairing attention and even causing hyperactivity.
Step 1: Click App store
Step 2: Search for and download Forest App (it’s worth the $2.79)
Step 3: Open the Forest App
Step 4: Watch your forest grow!
3. Empty your tray
At the bottom of your cell phone screen there is a little tray of icons that stays there. For most people it’s probably their phone, email, browser, and messages. But when those icons are visible, on every screen, at all times, you’re more inclined to click them. And, of course, email and texts will wave at you with little number flags to grab your attention. So don’t let them!
Step 1: Hold down any apps you have in your tray
Step 2: Move those apps and empty your tray
[Pro-Tip: It’s also worth scrambling your phone icons around frequently to avoid automatic behaviors to open apps without thinking about them.]
2. Put your phone into “Do Not Disturb” mode
Our cell phones are designed to be push devices. They push alerts at us! Push texts at us! Push notifications at us! Push, push, push. And we’re the catcher at the backstop just taking all those hits. So flip the switch and turn your phone into a pull device. Keep your phone on Do Not Disturb (or Airplane Mode – the only difference is that you still receive alerts on Do Not Disturb, your phone just doesn't light up or make noise) and then flip off Do Not Disturb mode to momentarily handle your emails / messages.
Step 1: Swipe up on your iPhone and press that tiny “Moon” button.
1. Get a landline
Don’t laugh! I am serious. Think of a landline as a ticket away from your cellphone. Want to talk to someone far away? Landline does the job nicely. And since so few people have landlines the price has plummeted. Ours is less than $20 a month! Now we don’t feel pressure to sleep near our cell phones since family can call the landline in emergencies. (By the way, for an emergency inside your house the landline is hardwired to your address for 9-1-1 calls, speeding up emergency responses, unlike your cell phone.)
Step 1: Call your phone company
Step 2: Ask for a landline
Step 3: Tell them Neil sent you
So, that’s it! 7 tools in my attempt to beat the addiction.
What helps you?
Send me a note at email@example.com