How to be more Mindful when using Your Phone
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Do you own a smartphone? Chances are, you do and that you’re probably even reading this blogpost on your phone. That in itself is of course not a bad thing – but recent studies show that we spend more time glued to our smartphones that we’re probably open to admit. But can you be mindful while using your phone? And if yes, how?
According to Statista, average users unlock their phone 80 times per day. A more recent study by Internet Trends even shows up to 150 unlocks per day (10x per waking hour). This results in an average screen time of 3 hours and 15 minutes – almost 20% of a regular week day(!). So how can we actually be more mindful while using our phones?
In the last two years I’ve taken this topic very seriously for myself, simply because I noticed how much time I actually spend on my smartphone. I think smartphones are great and the opportunities that come with it are amazing. I mean, how incredible is it to be able to have the world’s knowledge at your fingertips or reach thousands of people by simply talking into your phone camera!
That being said, I think it’s a two-edged sword. I’ve come to realize that if I don’t implement the necessary structures for my smartphone usage, it can go out of hand very quickly. The good thing is, that it’s really up to us on how we use our devices and implement them in our life. Below I’ve listed some of my favorite tips on how to be more mindful while using your phone. Enjoy!
Delete Unnecessary Apps
Let’s start with the basics. Open up your smartphone and delete all the apps that you never use. I bet there are a bunch of them. How do I know? I do this regularly myself and am always astonished on how quickly new apps populate on my home screen. While writing this blog post I deleted at least another 15 apps, of which many of them I haven’t used more than 3 times max.
Recognize Your Patterns
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have patterns that run mostly subconsciously – especially when it comes to our smartphone usage. A quick swipe left, tap here und booom, suddenly you find yourself in a string of actions that somehow let you end up scrolling through your Instagram Feed commenting and liking left and right.
What I realized is that once I recognized my patterns I started to be more likely to call myself out on them.
- Do you automatically swipe left on your home screen to then tap a specific app?
- Is your phone always with you when you go to the toilet?
- Do you always grab your phone when you sit down in the bus?
- Do you find yourself constantly refreshing apps without any real reason?
Be honest to yourself when you’re looking for patterns. It’s very likely that your fingers have already automated specific movements once you unlock your phone. Make yourself aware of them so that you can break them once you fall into automated useless patterns again! If you start looking out for this it’s a great step forward to be more mindful while using your phone in my opinion.
Put Social Media Apps in a separate Folder
One of the patterns I noticed was that I would always tap on Social Media apps once I unlocked my phone. What helped me break this pattern was to simply relocate them.
I then moved that folder to a part in my phone that was unusual for me so that I now have to take some extra steps to actually use the apps. That way the folder is not as accessible and I need to put in some extra effort which gives me extra time to think about if I actually really need to open the app right now.
The folder on my phone is named “use mindfully” which helps me remind myself that I want to use those apps – but in a mindful and sustainable way for my mental sanity.
Before I did this I moved the apps away from my home screen one by one. This helped for a while until I noticed that I created a new pattern to navigate to the desired app and open it. I think a key is to change things up once you notice a pattern you don’t find valuable for yourself. In my opinion this is a big step to how to be more mindful while using your phone.
As you can see, I’m still testing to see what works best for me, but generally moving your apps to a less accessible place has helped me tremendously already!
Use Grey Scale Mode
Imagine being invited to the cinema with your best friend to watch the newest Blockbuster movie – without color! That’s basically what greyscale does to your phone.. It takes away all the color from your screen.
Many users have found this setting to decrease screen time, reason for that being is that the apps seem less appealing when using them. Colors have a big impact on what we perceive to be interesting and/or important, so turning them off can help you reduce the time you spend on your phone.
On Samsung Devices you can find this setting under “Wind Down” in the “Digital Wellbeing” section. Simply set the timer to all day and once you turn it on you will see that the screen turns grey, taking away colors from your screen.
It’s great to see that most smartphone companies include options for digital wellbeing into their devices. If you can’t find the greyscale settings on your phone natively, search in the App Store and you’ll find multiple apps to help you remove the color from your screen.
Limit your App Time
This is another basic that you might have heard before and it’s actually easier said than done. What can help you reduce your app time are built in features, that allow you to track time spent per app per day/week.
On my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ you can find this option in the Digital Wellbeing section. This is where you can not only see how much time you spend per app, but you can also set individual limits per app – that way you have your app usage in control and can always see, if you’re on track!
I’m personally a very goal oriented person and love seeing progress/results. If your phone doesn’t have the built in option to monitor and limit your app time, a quick search in your app store will give you third party options you can use.
Turn off all App Notifications
To me, this is one of the biggest and at the same time most effective ways, to instantly have less distractions throughout your day. Since in my opinion it’s one of the most overlooked opportunities to improve your smartphone usage, I wrote a full blog post about WHY you should turn off/customize your app notifications.
Set specific times to check your Phone
If your (work)day and profession allows it, set specific times in the day for you to check your phone and/or specific apps. It’s easy to get distracted by an incoming text or email, so this set structure can help you reduce your phone time and be more focused during periods dedicated to work.
This approach is strongly tied to differentiating between proactive and reactive behaviour. I for example set up to 3 times in my day where I specifically reply to all my Social Media messages and incoming emails/texts. My time in sales has helped me realize that basically no message requires immediate action.
By setting specific times to check your phone you dedicate time in your day to be reactive to all incoming messages which in return allows you to focus better throughout the day!
Use different devices for different actions
This won’t be possible for everyone, but if it is for you, dedicate devices to specific actions. I love YouTube but noticed that consuming it on my smartphone can prompt me to suddenly spend a full half hour on my phone even though I just *quickly* wanted to check something.
That’s why I started to use my Galaxy Tab S6 to consume video content after my work day. That way I also have physical separation between my usage of apps and at the same time am not interrupted on my Tablet when watching videos.
Charge your Phone outside of your Bedroom
This is a big one and super simple to implement! Beginning of this year I started to not charge my phone next to my bed to improve sleep quality. That way I’m not tempted to reach out for my phone before going to bed or start my day by looking at my screen first thing in the morning.
The most common objection is “but my phone is my alarm clock” – it was my first initial thought as well. The truth is however, that you can 1) use something else as an alarm clock (e.g. an old school alarm clock or I use my Galaxy Watch Active 2 and simply set an alarm there).
Even if the above options are not available to you, you can still simply set your alarm on your phone even if it’s charging on the room next door. Turn up the volume and you’ll still be able to get up on time.
Put it out of reach while working
Whenever I notice that I keep grabbing my smartphone over and over again even though I should be working, it’s because it’s within arm’s length of reach from me.
The easiest and most effective thing you can do here is to simply put it on your couch or on another desk. Again, this sounds so simple (and it is) but at the same time I’m sure that you will notice the same benefits as me – if you can’t grab it and have to stand up to get it, you’ll think twice about if you actually need to check your phone at this very moment!
Try a Digital Detox Day
I try to implement one digital detox day per month where I don’t use my electronic devices or check social media.
What I noticed is that this helps me remind myself that nothing terrible happens when I don’t keep checking my phone or Social Media accounts over and over again. In fact, nobody really notices at all that I’m not online that day! (keep in mind that being active on Social Media is basically my full time job)
My most recent self-experiment was a dopamine free day, where I – in addition to not using devices – I didn’t do anything at all. All day!
While you can watch the full experience of this in my video, I want to point out here specifically that after this day it felt like I was resetted in regards to using my phone more mindfully. It felt like a big cleanse that made me realize that there is so much time in the day – what would happen if I use all that time intentionally and for the things I really want to do?
After all, nothing bad happened on any of my channels or to any unanswered messages. I simply replied the next day and that was that!
How do I get started?
I covered some of my all time favorite tips on how to be more mindful while using your phone. “Ok cool, but how do I get started?” is a fair question to ask at this point.
The answer is: Step by step!
Just like with getting in shape, creating any new habit and lifestyle takes time. Don’t overwhelm yourself or you’ll find your motivation can drop drastically and you won’t be taking action at all.
Choose 1-3 of the above tips and implement them TODAY. Take action, put in the work and see how it goes for you.
What are your tips on how to be more mindful while using your phone? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email!
Thanks for reading and have a mindful day with your phone 😉
Hi, I’m Alberto Nodale.