I used to spend a lot of time looking at my cellphone refreshing Slack, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Gmail, WhatsApp, Telegram… During conversations, during meetings, when I was watching movies, at any time, I’d be “just checking something real quick“. It was boring but also utterly addictive.
I have a much healthier relationship with my phone now; in fact, I barely use it. This is what I changed:
- I deleted my Instagram and Facebook accounts.
- I uninstalled Twitter, Reddit, and Gmail.
- I uninstalled Slack as well, but I install it on my on-call shifts (and remove it again afterwards).
- I deleted every social media, game, or general time-sink from my phone.
- I muted/silenced most people and groups on WhatsApp / Telegram / Messages, and I check those things once per day or so.
- I set a Do Not Disturb schedule from 8 pm to 9 am. During that time, only my immediate family (wife, parents) and a couple of friends can reach me; other than that, I get no notifications.
- I cleaned up my home screen to focus on what I want to reinforce.
This is what my home screen looks like:
I have no other apps. With this configuration, I help myself do three things:
- Read (Kindle)
- Listen to podcasts (Overcast)
- Listen to music (Spotify)
Why do all of this?
Because I want to be in control of my attention. The decision to engage with something or someone should come from me, not from anyone else.
Most apps are designed to make you use them more and more; in contrast, I designed my phone experience to be boring, silent and focused.
I’m optimizing for non-engagement, and it feels great! I’m more focused, I pay more attention to the people around me, I can focus on what I’m reading or watching, and I’m more mindful in general.
I highly recommend spending some time thinking about what relationship you want to have with your phone, and making changes to take more control of your attention and your life.