Looking for a way to cut back on your smartphone use? Make your phone dull and boring looking by turning the screen grayscale. It’s surprisingly effective.
For years we’d heard people talk about how you can minimize distraction on your smartphone by turning the screen from its default full-color state to a more boring (and decidedly dystopian looking) grayscale. Frankly, it seemed like one of those things that sounded good on paper but in practice was surely a waste of time. Seemed, that is, until we tried it out.
Smartphones are, if nothing else, colorful. The games, the social media apps, the very interface itself, are all so bright and cheerful. The games are artfully designed with pleasant and vibrant color. The notifications are tweaked to a perfect shade of red to catch your eye. The icons themselves, laid out across the home screen, are enticing in and of themselves. Just looking at the bright red Todoist icon makes us want to open it up and game apps always have a special appeal.
But, quite surprisingly, when we flipped our screen gray, the phone just seemed so dull. The alerts didn’t seem urgent anymore—just look at the screenshot above; there’s nothing urgent about any of those alerts. Many time-wasting games are practically impossible to play without color references. When everything is black, white, or some shade of gray, it all takes on a very utilitarian vibe, and you’ll likely find yourself, as we did, using an app for exactly as long as you need to get the task done, and then putting your phone down.
If you’re using an iPhone, you can turn on the grayscale filter by navigating to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters. If you’re using an Android device the method varies depending on your device (and you may even have to enable Developer Mode to do it), but it’s usually, like on iPhones, under the Accessibility menu.
Is turning your phone grayscale forever a workable solution? Maybe. If you find you’re all about living life with a dull-looking smartphone to beat distraction, run with it. But it might just be enough to leave your phone in a somebody-stole-all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow state for a week to help you form a new less-phone-time habit.