This post will help you reclaim wasted time and stop distraction by overcoming your smartphone’s addictive grip with five simple steps. The steps will require a bit of courage to start and only a sprinkle of will power once implemented. So, go forth, break the cycle of smartphone addiction, and reclaim your life.
I will be tickled pink if you read ahead. However, If raring to go, jump to the 5 steps by clicking here.
Smartphone Addiction Statistics
Do you have a smartphone addiction? No. Is it a dependency? Semantics aside, the smartphone and its finger-smudged offshoots are likely taking up a lot more of your time than you think.
Let’s assume you are an average media user. Now, consider that some estimates calculate that you are likely to spend 5 years and 4 months on social media over your lifetime! And, In 2019, the average person picked up their smartphones 63 distracting times and consumed 4.33 hours of mobile screen-time. Those stats are the tip of the screen-berg. We haven’t mentioned the 7 years 8 months you will spend watching TV. And, things begin to look even grimmer when you consider that the average Americans consume a stunning 11 hours of media per day.
I don’t own a TV, but like most people in the US, I have a smartphone. When I first enabled screen time, I found, I used my phone 2.5 hours a day. I was shocked. Today, I average 20-35 minutes on my iPhone. Although it is an ongoing process, I feel like I’ve broken my cycle of smartphone addiction. And, it’s something I want to help others do.
What is life, but increments of time? How much of the day do we have to pursue happiness and all that good stuff? Well, It depends: Let’s say you sleep the recommended eight hours— If you don’t, read my summary of Why We sleep. A full night’s rest would give you 16 wide-eyed hours to frolic in the realm of consciousness experience. Maybe less, if you wake up in a pre-coffee coma. Now, subtract 9 hours, which is the average workday plus typical commute. This math leaves the regular worker with around 7 hours of free time after the toil. This free time also includes necessary things like bubble baths, eating, exercising because you sit at a desk, and what have you.
So, you’re left with 7-ish hours to do as you please. Now, subtract whatever chunk of the 4.33 hours of average screen-time, (not counting TV) you spend outside of work. If you want to include TV, go ahead— it’s scary. Your number will depend significantly on how much you’re scrolling through Instagram while on and off the job. If you’re lucky after all the math, you may have somewhere between 2 To 5 hours of precious time for the necessities and activities that bring you joy, like collecting rocks, playing the ukelele, or building that complicated Lego set you bought for your inner kid.
In any world, 2-5 hours is not a lot of time. A few episodes on Netflix and the day would be over. Many might even find, they have no time at all for anything— all the more reason to break the distracting smartphone addiction.
If we look deeply, we will likely find our screens are robbing us blind, stealing our precious time, our only life. If your anything like me, you want more time— living, in the real-life, and bubble baths are fun.
The one to rule them all
It’s probably not wise to carve out more time by (god forbid I suggest watching less Netflix) avoiding life’s necessary pleasures like bubble baths, and eating. So what to do? In my opinion, the best way to get more time is by dramatically culling back your smartphone usage. The only way to do this is to treat your smartphone as the toxic, addictive frenemy it is.
However, let’s not be dogmatic. The smartphone has conveniences worth keeping— I’d be lost without text message, GPS, kiss face emojis, my calendar, or the ability to order in sushi. The same can’t be said for Instagram, that Russian app harvesting your data, and the many other applications that clutter our digital spaces.
Simply, less screen time will equal more free time. And, free time spent well, is— time spent well. You get it.
Are You Full
Let’s face it, smartphones may be entertaining, sometimes necessary, but they are not fulfilling. They don’t replace real-life interactions and doings. The more digital life replaces real life, the more our human spirit suffers. Take care of your spirit.
But, like an addict, many of us find it hard to put our smartphones down, even when we know there are many more things we’d rather do. Smartphone addiction is not your fault or caused by a lack of willpower.
Why Can’t we stop looking at Smartphones
So why, is it so hard to say no to the smudged screen in your pocket, that’s calling you like Frodo’s One Ring, tempting you to disappear into the magic void. Your ‘ring,’ aka the smartphone, wasn’t forged by Sauron or any one evil dude. Instead, rockstar-nerds made stuff; stuff turned into a publicly-traded billion-dollar business; that businesses turned into an overlord time sucker in silicon valley; you know the guys from Google, Facebook, and Apple.
No matter their noble beginnings, today, Big Tech wants nothing more than to enslave (middle) Earth and ‘rule them all.’ So, get ready to harness your inner Frodo. Meanwhile, I’ll Be Sam carrying you to the top of Mount Doom, and the five steps to break your smartphone addiction will be Gollum biting off the ring. It’s a euphemism— you get it. We’re about to kick Big-Sauron-Tech butt. And Afterward, you’re going to go frolic in the Shire with all your extra time.
The Attention Economy
And, Your time is today’s most profitable natural resource. To see how large corporations use natural resources, look to how the Earth is doing, and we have a good idea of what’s likely to happen to us.
The technophile t-shirt and turtle neck, clad Attention-miners are racing, investing, and inventing to harvest as much of your conscious life as possible— no matter the cost to you or society.
How Big Tech Takes Your Time
The attention-economy has turned many of our visionaries into little more than brain-hackers, who are striking paydirt with apps and devices intentionally designed to exploit insecurities (like intermittent-positive-reinforcement and drive-for-social-approval) in our species paleolithic brains. Big tech, relies on us being glued to our devices— aka smartphone addiction. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. However, it will require a fight.
You’ve Lost the Battle
If you’re like me, you have probably tried to break the smartphone addiction already through sheer force of will— ‘I will not watch the next fishing video.’ If your anything like me, you probably failed, relapsed, or at least fell short of your goal. I watched the next fishing video, and I don’t fish.
Breaking digital addictions is no easy task. Especially considering tech companies have invested millions of dollars, likely billions, to design our devices to be sophisticated slot machines that feed us Never ending dopamine hits throughout the day.
It’s hard to fight conglomerates who are spending their time and money learning to hack our brains to make more money. The fight isn’t fair. We’re David and their super-steroid-Goliath. Every second of attention they can grab, are pennies in their pockets, via your wasted time. Right now, their winning— they have a lot of pennies.
What To Do
Of course, smartphones aren’t all bad. We are dependant on the smartphone for an extraordinary amount of tasks from E-mail to GPS. Sure, you could dust off your old Razor flip-phone sitting in your pile of outdated electronics, waiting to be recycled, go cold turkey, and live a blissed-out smartphone-less life. If you’re like me, that’s not going to happen—kiss emojis rock. So what to do?
My advice: Make your smartphone less smart and, in doing so, less addictive. That’s what I did some time in 2018 after reading Digital Minimalism. It worked. I used my phone for much less, and I found I didn’t miss much at all. I didn’t touch Instagram, my worst offender for a year. And when I did— I found it to be underwhelming.
If you want to really dive deep into a digital minimalist lifestyle, read my book summary of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. And then, after you’ve implemented the five hacks to break smartphone addiction, read my summary of Cal Newport’s Deep Work to get pumped about having more free time.
Five Steps: Stop Smartphone Addiction
Hi, my name is _______________ , I’m a smartphone addict.
Pick up your smartphone—counterintuitive, isn’t it.
Enable Screen Time
- Go to Settings > Screen time
- Tap Turn on Screen Time
- Tap Continue
Delete all unnecessary apps.
This is the biggest hurdle to break smartphone addiciton. Maybe it’s the only true hurdle. This step will define how successful you will be.
You have to decide what apps are absolutely necessary to have on your phone. But remember, this is a fight against Sauron type companies. Be ruthless. After all, it is your life we are talking about here. Don’t forget step one— you have a smartphone addiction.
Smartphones are the latest human appendage, and this is why they are the best tool for Big Tech to steal your time. So, to thwart the enemy, delegate as many digital necessities like E-mail and web browsing to the laptop or tablet; It’s better if the technology can’t be carried with you everywhere. Also, it is not socially acceptable to be browsing the web on a laptop while at dinner with friends — at least with my friends.
Leave only the necessities you really need on your phone. If it can be done reasonably on a laptop— delete it.
Here is a list of iPhone apps I find essential
- Google Maps / Waze
- Messages / WhatsApp
- Phone / Facetime / Zoom
- Uber / Lyft
- Google Translate
- Meditation Apps / Insight Timer / Waking up
Here are other apps I find invaluable and choose to keep.
- Books / Kindle /
- Podcast / Overcast
- Banking apps
Please notice Safari or any other web browser is not included. Browse the web on your computer. If there is a time when you need a web browser on your phone urgently, you can always download the app and then delete it when you’re done using it. Be ruthless.
How to delete Safari from the iPhone
You cannot delete Safari on the iPhone! Sneaky Apple. But, here is how to get rid of it.
- Settings > Screen time > Content & Privacy Restrictions> Allowed Apps
- Toggle off Safari
— Gollum in the house
Seriously. Delete those social media apps. Unless you’re an Influencer, making a living from Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Get rid of it. If it is a necessity, at the very least, put a timer on it. I recommend 15 minutes.
Remember, it must be absolutely necessary. It’s to easy to extend App limit times as much as you want.
When it comes to social media on any device— get in and get out. Be ruthless. It’s your life.
How to set an app time limit on the iPhone
- Go to Settings > Screen Time > App Limit > Add Limit > Social Networking
- Select desired app
- Select time limit
Some exceptions I find useful.
- Messages / WhatsApp: Use only badges (no banners or sounds), this way, you won’t get interrupted while in the middle of something, but still, have that annoying red number to remind you to answer friends.
- Google Maps / Waze: Notifications on for driving.
- Phone (calls): Notifications on.
Here’s how to turn notifications off on the iPhone.
- Settings > Notifications >
- Open apps
- Toggle off notifications
That’s it. You’re on the road to breaking your smartphone addiction. You have successfully made your smartphone dumb, your future self smarter, and rescued your time for more bubble baths, brewing your first batch of beer, and reading all of The Lord of The Rings, now that your basically Frodo.