5 tested methods to break your phone addiction

Most studies say people check their phones around 150 times a day . It’s an obsessive tick that literally makes us less happy. But how do we break the habit when smartphones are a necessary tool for our work and social lives? We talked to five people who’ve battled phone addiction and lived to tell the tale. Here are their tips.


Delete those apps

“My iPhone had always absorbed my attention, but in 2012, when it started to encroach on time with my kids, I decided to do something about it. I deleted every app that distracted me: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. I deleted the Gmail app, and disabled the built-in email and even Safari. It was a huge relief. I thought this would be a short-term experiment, but six years later, those apps are still off my iPhone.” —Jake Knapp , former design partner, Google Ventures; coauthor, Make Time

Supersize your device

“To develop awareness of when and how I used my smartphone, I tried replacing it with the iPad mini 3G, which has all the features of the iPhone, except calling. Because the iPad was big enough to be cumber­some to use at, say, the dinner table, it made me real­ize when I was killing time on it; I virtually stopped using Instagram and Twitter. Eventually, I went back to a smartphone, but I am more conscious about using it.” —Michell Zappa , founder, Envisioning Technolog y

Make it unpleasant

“The first step is to install an app like Moment to track your usage. It notifies me when I’m on my phone more than usual, and I can see how many times I’ve picked it up each day. I also tried a comparison: For two weeks I used my iPhone screen in color, and for two weeks I used it in gray scale, which is designed to be irritating. I found that gray scale reduced my usage to just utility and eliminated aimless scrolling.” —Sarah Lawrence , graphic designer

Leave it in another room

“On the advice of a therapist, I started practicing leaving my phone in one room while I went into another. I brought it up and said that I was way too attached. Thought it was making me anxious. I didn’t like being in places without reception and would go home if my phone were at risk of dying. Still to this day, I’ve never had an iPhone die because I obsessively keep it charged. But my therapist basically had me practice just leaving it in another room for increasing increments of time. Small increments. Like 15 minutes at a time but getting longer. I’m still bad, but much better. And I don’t really work on it anymore. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” —Yoni Rechtman , investor

Put your phone into airplane mode . . . on the ground

“I deleted Instagram for a couple weeks, and that was brilliant. I also set my phone to airplane mode at night. I eventually reinstalled Instagram because my girlfriend (and some friends, too) were like, YOU’RE NOT SEEING ANY OF THE MEMES I’M SENDING YOU. But I still use airplane mode, almost every night. If not, the phone is definitely on silent.” —John Converse Townsend , social content and community manager, Fast Company