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How to stop using your phone so much

Teachers, parents, angry people on the internet; they’re always telling us we spend too much time on our phones. But we’re not that bad are we? Yeah, maybe we’ll have a quick scroll through Instagram while the next episode loads, or check our messages on the bus but what’s that, like half an hour a day? Well, you might want to have a little sit down because a handful of recent studies have shown that we’re actually spending over four hours a day on our phones. Over. Four. Hours. A Day.

Here are some things you can do in four hours:

  • Run a marathon
  • Watch 10 episodes of Friends on Netflix
  • Make 120 cups of tea
  • Fly from London to Barcelona. And back.
  • Read 240 pages of a book

So, I think we can all agree that that’s quite a long time to be looking at our phones every day and maybe we could do with cutting it down a bit. But how do we break the twitch and stop reaching for our phone every five minutes?

Leave your phone in another room

When our phone is within reach, it’s easy to fall back into the habit and reach for it any time we feel the urge. Sometimes we reach for it for no reason, just because that’s what our brain is used to doing. So remove the option. If you’re in the kitchen, say, leave it in your bedroom and eliminate the temptation for a quick scroll. You can’t look at what isn’t there!

Come up with a swap

If you’re worried about leaving your phone in another room and it falling into the hands of nosy siblings, keep it with you but every time you reach for your phone, do something else instead. You could read a chapter of a book, write a line in your journal, practise your yoga headstands… literally anything. You’ll feel good that you managed to avoid the smart phone itch, plus you’ll reap the benefits from doing something constructive instead.

Take up cross stitch

Or robot building. Or card tricks. Or sign language. What I’m trying to say here is take up a hobby that occupies your hands. The thing with overusing our phones is that we often do it when we’re bored or anxious and need something to keep our minds and our hands busy. So, instead of using your phone to answer that need, fulfil it with something else a little more practical.

Delete your most-used apps

Do me a quick favour. Grab your phone and, without looking, open the Instagram app. I bet you can do it. I know I can. I don’t even need to use my brain because my thumb knows exactly where to go. A lot of the time, we have absolutely no idea why we’ve just opened an app. One second we were watching a YouTube clip of baby goats in pyjamas (I highly recommend doing that) and the next we’re accidentally liking someone’s holiday photos from 34 weeks ago. To combat that autopilot, delete the apps that you’re most guilty of hanging out on. You don’t have to delete your account and you don’t even have to delete the app forever, but take muscle memory out of the equation and give yourself some breathing space to think about why you’re actually picking up your phone.

Download an app

What? I just told you to delete your apps! I know but this is about the apps designed to break the habit (which seems counter-intuitive but stick with me). Moment tracks your daily usage so that you’re faced with the cold hard numbers as well as allowing you to set limits for screen time. If you go over, it forces you off your phone with super annoying noises and visuals. OFFTIME also tracks your usage and gives you the option to block apps, messages and notifications for specific amounts of time. Or, if you’re going to be ultra hardcore, you could try Flipd. It lets you completely lock yourself out of your phone for an allotted period and, if you try to turn your phone off and on again to reset it, you’re out of luck because once it’s locked, it’s locked until the timer is up.


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