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8 Ways to Train Yourself to Check Your Phone Less

Young woman checking her phone instead of focusing on the work in front of her.
fizkes/Shutterstock

Feel like you check your phone so many times a day it’s become a bad habit? Here’s how to train yourself away from constantly looking at your phone.

If you have Digital Well Being on your Android phone or you’ve checked your Screen Time Report on your iPhone, you know exactly how many times you picked up your phone and played with it. You might even know how much time you’re spending on apps, perusing through social media, and playing games.

Even if you’ve never looked at these tools to see what your phone usage looks like, if you feel like you’ve been spending too much time on your phone, here are some things you can do to cut back.

Wear a Watch (and Turn Off Notifications)

One thing that draws me into my phone is checking the time. I check the time, but then I see I have a notification from Facebook. Next thing I know, I’ve lost twenty minutes to scrolling the news feed. Investing in a watch can help avoid this trap.

But if your watch is a smartwatch or you just prefer to live the watch-free life and use your phone to check the time, then you should turn off the notifications. Here’s how to turn off lock screen notifications on your iPhone and Android devices.

Use Your Phone’s Built-In Tools

We mentioned screen time tools above when talking about how you might have realized you’re spending too much time on your phone, but it’s worth bringing them up again. They’re not just for shaking your head over how much time you spend on Instagram, they’re also useful for putting limits on your usage. Here’s how to do that with your iPhone and with your Android device.

If that all seems a bit too much and you don’t want to fuss over a bunch of settings, you can also do it the old school way and use the timer function on your phone to just set a hard limit. Pick an amount of time (like fifteen minutes) and log off as soon as the alarm sounds. Make sure you’re not using your phone to procrastinate from the important things in life, like work, family time, and self-care.

Leave Your Phone in Your Locker or Car at School and Work

Many businesses are lax on cell phone rules. In college, you can most often choose to keep your phone on you in classes (in high school, you’re more likely to get it taken away until the end of the school day if you’re caught on your phone during class). It might be your choice whether you have direct access to your phone at school or work. The better option is to detach that extra limb for the few hours you’re there, so you can focus on the tasks at hand, instead of getting sucked into phonelandia.

If you need to check for emergency messages, check on breaks or between classes. For major emergencies, go old school and have your family call the main number at your place of work, instead of your smartphone.

Even if you opt not to physically separate yourself from your phone (leaving it in your car across campus or in your locker is a good way to get it stolen), you can pretend you don’t have it on you by turning it off and stashing it in your bag.

Have a “No Phones at Meals” Policy

Nothing shows how separated we are from our spouses and family than a dinner table full of people staring at their phones. Whether it’s lunchtime or family game night, make a rule in your home that any family time is phone-free time. You can even have a basket that everyone tosses their phone into while you’re eating or enjoying time together.

Consider this same tactic at holiday get-togethers and family reunions. If the events are not being held at your home, talk to the event host ahead of time, and come up with a plan. If family photos are a big deal, have a digital camera handy, instead of relying on smartphone cameras.

Don’t Dig Out Your Phone When You’re Out with Friends

I’ve gone to events at the bar and sat at a table full of people on their phones. Instead of spending time talking to each other or enjoying whatever festivities were at hand, we were engrossed in social media and texting.

While you might not be able to get the whole group to put their phones away, you can choose to leave yours in your purse or pocket when you’re spending time with friends. Grab it for selfies, but stay off social media and spend time focusing on your friends.

Make Vehicles Phone-Free

We’ve all been told it’s not safe to use phones while driving, but what about focusing on the phone while you’re a passenger? Playing games with the sound on or watching videos can be distracting to the driver. Plus, reading your phone screen while in a vehicle can cause car sickness, even for those who have never had it before.

Unless you’re using your phone to keep kids quiet in the backseat, leave your phone tucked away (or only use them for GPS). Listen to the radio, watch the scenery, or catch up on life events with the other people in the car.

Don’t Multi-Screen with Your Computer and Phone

When you’re at the computer, leave your phone on the other side of the room. If the ringer is on, you’ll hear if someone calls or texts. When you’re on your computer, focus on the work you’re doing there and not on the extremely tempting distractions your phone offers you.

On a related note, using your computer specifically for those distractions is a great way to limit them. We recently shared a great tip from a computer science professor focused on minimizing smartphone usage: Use your phone only for phone stuff, like calls, texts, and, say, listening to podcasts. Save the goofing off for a set period of time on your computer.

Don’t Take Your Phone to Bed with You

One final thing you can do to help break your phone habit is to leave your phone out of the bedroom. We’re all guilty of checking social media as we’re lying in bed. The light from your phone can disrupt your sleep cycle, and you’re not doing your brain any good, filling it with all of that info right as you’re trying to rest.

If you use your phone as an alarm clock, consider buying an actual alarm clock. If you’re worried about someone calling while you sleep, leave the phone on a table outside the bedroom with the ringer on.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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