A phone is a perfect antidote to a very prominent flaw of human nature — our inherent inability to handle boredom. We quickly become addicted because a phone offers us distraction in whatever way we want it. 

From booty pics, video games, to the perfect lives of celebrities portrayed on Instagram, your phone helps to take you away (or distract you) from your — often banal — reality into a fantasy world. A world where some are slaying dragons in video games, having sex with perfect body models, or feeding their imagination with the luxurious life of a celebrity. It’s no wonder why we are spending more and more time on our phones. 

But like every habit, this one can also be unlearned. Here are eleven practical tips you can adapt to use your phone less frequently. 

Log out of the apps you use too frequently

Adding in the friction — or stress — of having to log back in whenever you need to use Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, is so ethical it forces intentionality in your phone usage. You are far less likely to randomly decide to open Facebook and tumble into mindless scrolling when you have to log in each time before you can use it. 

See this as a simple mindfulness gap forcing you to hold back and think, “Do I want to use this right now?” “Do I need to log into Instagram?” Probably not.

Think of the apps that take the most of your time. It’s probably Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or tick-tock. If you logged out of them, what would change? Would it in any way affect your social functioning or make you miss out on any important stuff? Probably not. 

Keep your phone out of reach when you sleep

We’ve all been there, not being able to sleep at nighttime because you know booty pictures and funny cat videos are only 3 feet away. So, you roll over and you open your phone and then three hours later it’s 4 am. And before you know it, you’ve ruined tomorrow before it even begins.

Keep your phone outside your bedroom. Take the charging cable and put it somewhere else. Put it in the kitchen, the living room, or the hallway. Charge your phone there overnight.

You’re not going to want to wake up without charging your phone, and if you don’t move the charger, you cannot have your phone next to your bed. 

Start your mornings phone-free

Following on from sleeping with your phone outside your bedroom, another amazing strategy is to keep your phone away for as long as you can in the morning, if possible until you step outside the door to begin your day. 

The consequence of this is that instead of starting your day in a reactive state, you’re been proactive. Unuseful group chat messages can wait till the end of the day. 

You get to decide what you’re going to do with your morning without being side-swiped by whatever is trending on the internet. The benefits of not checking your phone in the morning far outweigh whatever you think you can get from checking it, so don’t do it. 

Use voice command

If you’ve got a pair of earbuds or any wireless headphones, you can do practically anything by simply dictating to your phone. When you’re having a phone-free morning routine, for instance, you might need to call somebody, but at the same time do not want to open up your phone and get sucked up into the addictive distractions and notifications. 

Using voice commands in a situation like this will help you use your phone without necessarily having to hold or touch it. 

Keep your phone out of reach when you’re at your desk

When your task gets a little bit difficult at your desk, you’ll naturally want to look for a distraction. And if your phone is in arms reach, that’s the first place you’re going to go. 

The proximity of your phone to you is going to be a direct function of how much you are distracted by it. If your phone is within sight, you’ll always want to pick it up. Leave it in a drawer, or a locker where you cannot get to. 

Prevent your phone from interjecting into your day

Side view of concentrated young female in trendy red summer dress with straw woven bag resting on bench in tropical park and browsing smartphone

Imagine you were sitting down having dinner somewhere, and somebody just came over and sat at your table and started talking to you, interjecting between you and the person that you’re with. I’m sure you’ll think that person is the rudest person you’ve ever met. 

But by enabling notifications on your phone, that’s precisely what you’re allowing the entire internet to do to you. 

Your phone is there for you to use, not for it to use you, and certainly not for other people to just step into your day. 

Group chats, for instance, aren’t even sending messages to us. You just keep getting notified about what someone said to someone else, all of which interjects into your day. 

If you want to have a much smoother day, go to your settings and turn off notifications for everything you know you can do without during your day. 

You may have your daughter on iMessage, or your mom on messenger, feel free to leave those on, but there’s really not a group chat in history that you need to keep your notifications on for. 

And you may think, what if I end up missing an important message? If it’s really serious, the person will ring you. 

Use wireless headphones

Wireless headphones permit you to use your phone without needing to have it in your hand. You can walk around your house while you’re cooking, washing, or cleaning while listening to a podcast or an audiobook without having your phone within arm’s reach.

Have phone free nights

Photo of Sleeping Man

Since you’ve restricted how long it’s going to be before you pick up your phone in the morning, it only makes sense that you also restrict how late you’ll use your phone at night. 

By restricting the period within which you can use your phone, you’re inevitably going to reduce your screen time. 

One way you can use this rule is to have a behavior trigger that you can stick to, and after that, you don’t use your phone. For instance, you can decide not to use your phone after you shower or eat dinner at night. 

Set yourself a rule and have it on your mind that after that thing has occurred, you don’t use your phone till the next day.

Besides the fact that this strategy helps you use your phone less, it also helps you have a great sleep since you’ll be avoiding blue light at least an hour before going to sleep. 

Use screen time widgets

A screen time widget allows you to see how much time you’ve spent on your phone. Every time you open your device, you are going to have a big number on your phone screen telling you how long you’ve been using it. With a screen time widget, you can regulate your phone use much more easily and accurately. 

Avoid using your phone in a packed car

Most of us have been there. You start your day early because you’re worried about getting late for an event. But when you finally get there, just before you get out of the car, you decide to spend a few minutes in your nice warm car because it’s cold outside. And before you know it, you’re late. You just woke up early, rushed through traffic, and nearly crashed your car in an effort just to make it on time and look at pictures on Instagram and end up late. 

It is better to leave your phone out of reach when you are in your car. Just because you’re in a moving or a parked vehicle doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to pick up your phone in the slightest traffic jam. 

Remove icons from your home screen

You can now customize the home screen of your phone to serve you in the way that you want for easy access. But the downside of this is that easy access will only lead to more frequent usage. 

Hence, to reduce your phone usage, remove all your apps (especially the ones you don’t want to use frequently) from your home screen. The idea behind doing this is to make it difficult for you to access the apps you don’t want to use too frequently. 

Every single step you take towards making your frequently used apps more difficult to access is going to benefit you. 

Final thoughts

Using a phone more effectively starts with seeing it as a tool that you use. See it like your shoe. You don’t just randomly pick up your shoe and start to play with it around the house. You pick it when you have somewhere to go. 

Use a phone in the same way. A phone isn’t an extension of you to take around all the time; it’s a tool. Don’t just pick it out of impulse. Pick it up when you have a specific need for it.


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