Little Hacks for Phone Addiction

One goal I’ve had this year is to feel a little bit more in control of my life. I have no zen aspirations here. I’m not trying to find my truth. I’m just trying to not float through each day as much. Sometimes a month will go by and I’ll be like, what? I’d like less of that. I’ve been trying different things to see if they work. Last month, I did a little life-logging to see if that would change any of my behaviours (nope). In January, I used a physical notebook for daily notes, lists, and a running how are you doing though” kind of thing. It’s been working well, and I’ll write more about that later. This month, I want to try working on my phone habits.

I’m not the only person doing this. I see major publications wrestling with this issue a lot. We’re addicted to these things because they’re designed to be addictive. I’ve always been pretty bad at spending too much passive time on my phone. So, for the next month, I’ll try changing three iPhone features/habits to see if it helps.

  1. Reduce notifications to the essential - based on How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life:

They don’t so much inform us or guide us as correct us: You’re looking there, but you should be looking here. They’re a lawn that must be mowed. Boils that must be lanced, or at least scabs that itch to be picked.

I looked through my notifications, and did a lot of flip switching while thinking is this from a person (not a robot) actually trying to reach me specifically right now?” If the answer to that was no, I turned off the notification. I think this is the habit that will stick most.

  1. Reduce the casino-level addictive qualities of the iPhone - based on Is the Answer to Phone Addiction a Worse Phone?:

After going to grayscale, I’m not a different person all of a sudden, but I feel more in control of my phone, which now looks like a tool rather than a toy. If I unlock it to write an email, I’m a little less likely to forget the goal and tap on Instagram. If I’m waiting in line for coffee, this gray slab is not as delightful a distraction as it once was.

I fired up my Lumia 800 and 1020 last weekend and was reminded how calming I found the experience of Windows Phone. But then I remembered how little the phone actually did (it never had the same feature set as iOS or Android, but so many services have been killed off by Microsoft over time). Switching back isn’t a realistic option in 2018, but I’ve always found the iPhone a little too colourful and distracting. There was no excitement in using a Windows Phone (perhaps one reason it didn’t take off) but it did not give me the feeling I’d been at a slot machine. Maybe eliminating some of the candy” of the iPhone will help.

So I followed the guide and figured out how to make Color Filters” fire when I triple-clicked the home button. Doing do bled the colours away from my iPhone. If you’re going to do this, I would also recommend turning on Darken Colors” and Reduce Transparency” in settings. An iPhone in black and white is nothing like the slick black backgrounds of my Lumias; there is so much grey all over the iPhone, and nothing sticks out. But this is the point of this experiment. Make the phone less exciting, and maybe your eyes will stop yearning for the blue light. I’ve only been doing this for a few days, so I don’t know if it’ll stick.

  1. Put a wall between you and the addictive stuff - based on Plant A Tree And Get On With Your Life:

All life hacks are a little sad, ok? … but desperate, techno-dystopian times call for desperate, techno-dystopian measures! And it WORKS. I plant a tree, set the timer, and suddenly my phone is untouchable, an art project, a game I win by forgetting I’m playing. The day—at least for the next two hours—is mine.

I downloaded this app two weeks ago and it’s nicely slid into my daily habit. Whenever I feel I’m on my phone and don’t need to be, I start a timer in the app and put the phone away. I am surprised how often I’ve picked up the phone while the timer is still running, but it’s proving the whole point: I’m on this thing too much.

This app also has a Chrome extension that works in a way I always wanted out of a chrome distraction app. If you go to, say, Twitter, while the timer is running, a black overlay appears with the timer and the digital tree that will die if you stay on the tab. It’s just enough to put me back to work. I hope this habit holds up, but I worry I’ll just slide back.


March 2, 2018