Coaching & Development Solutions

Five Ways To Manage Your Smartphone Addiction



My Addiction to my Phone

Hello everyone, my name is Alasdair and I am a smartphone addict. It's been twenty minutes since my last hit. I first discovered that I was a addicted to using my phone in September 2016. As a child I read voraciously, and as an adult I would normally read a book every 2-3 weeks. Suddenly I realised that I hadn't read a book in a few months, and quickly worked out it was because of my phone. I loved it and used it for everything: taking pictures of the food I cooked, finding how to drive to new places using Google Maps, recording my runs in Strava, and seeing what my friends were doing in Facebook. Yes, it did everything I could possibly want, and I used it so heavily I'd stopped reading books. Why read Pride and Prejudice when you can watch a video of cats running away from cucumbers?

I'm not the only addict in the world. Studies have shown that using technology stimulates the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter which manages the reward seeking part of the brain. Some psychologists have coined the term nomophobia, the fear of not having your mobile phone, and proposed it is added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you feel this is taking it too far, then consider the recent death of a man who took his phone into the bath while it was charging from mains electricity, or the death of a mother and three children when a lorry driver crushed their car while he browsed music on his phone. If you feel this doesn't apply to you, then it could be worth checking how much you use your phone. We tend to check our phones twice as often we think.

I recognise that my phone can sometimes distract me from more important things and people in my life so I actively manage my addiction. Below are five ways which could allow you to do the same.

Use an App

Yes, it's somewhat ironic to use apps on your phone to reduce your dependency on your phone, but they can also be very effective. BreakFree gives you a simple addiction score based on how often you unlock your phone and how long you spend on it, and encourages you to achieve better scores. Offtime is my current app of choice and allows you to select profiles that can block certain apps, notifications, calls or SMS messages. I built a focused work profile during the day that blocks Facebook and other time-wasting temptations, and a relaxing profile in the late evening which prevents me checking my work email or receiving calls from most people.

Create Phone-free Zones

Make a conscious decision on where you are going to use your phone, and where you will focus on other activities or people. I've heard of people making the dinner table a gadget-free zone, and I have made my bedroom a phone-free zone because I realised that the first thing I did when I woke was to check my phone notifications, even if it was in the middle of the night.

Switch off Notifications

It's the notifications which are the distracting little devils that pop up, tell you about something which sounds interesting, and before you know it you've spent 30 minutes reading embarrassing auto-correct errors, commenting on whether a dress is blue or yellow, or watching people pour ice-water on themselves. By selectively switching off notifications you avoid the temptation in the first place.

Store Your Phone in a Different Room

Small barriers can be surprisingly effective in changing our behaviour when it's not an existing routine. So store your phone in a different room which would make you get up and walk up or down a flight of stairs to access it and the number of times you unlock it should drop.

Agree Tech-free Times

Plan activities which won't involve screens of any sort. My partner and I have regular “No Tech Evenings” where we listen to music and play cards or board games. I'd almost forgotten that these pastimes still existed, and how much fun they can be. We each become insanely competitive and she cries “Cheat!” whenever I win, and there is a lot of mad laughter – much more than I get from watching videos of cats running away from cucumbers.

About The Author

Alasdair Graham is the founder of Apex Discovery and a coach who helps leaders and businesses grow. If you found this blog post useful then please share it.

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