One simple trick to take back your life… (from your phone)

My New Year’s resolution was simple: spend less time on my phone

Easy to say, hard to do. I’ve attacked the problem of basically having a super computer in your pocket at all times from several directions – but the truth is a computer in your pocket is both helpful and hurtful at the same time… 

So what are the options?

Option 1) Ditch the phone. I’ve gone cold turkey by swapping my SIM card out of my iPhone and into a Nokia 3310. No interruptions (no one calls and no one texts – everyone’s on WhatsApp) but also no internet. Yuck. It turns out the internet is really useful for many things – like Ubers and maps and movie times. So the internet isn’t inherently evil. No internet works for a weekend or a beachside vacation with your BAE but isn’t really sustainable (or really desirable to be honest).

Option 2: Ditch the phone. I bought a new Apple Watch with cellular – that gives me the connectivity I want (same as Nokia) and drastically reduces the amount of internet. This is a *great* option and better than cold turkey – I *do* leave the house on short errands with only my watch on. No phone, no wallet. Again, not for forever, and not for every day – I need more than just a watch.

Option 3: Keep the phone, make some modifications. Well, this seems like a sensible option… so what does this mean?

There’s a great book I read a few years ago – Happiness by Design. The key tenet is you can set things up in a certain way that they effortlessly lead to a happier life. For example simply by going to be earlier each night, you can wake up BEFORE your alarm blasts you awake. This makes you happier, and requires only a little planning. 

The same applies for your phone.

I think the single most important change you can make – right now- is TURNING OFF NOTIFICATIONS.

At the least, this means you can engage with your phone on your own terms. You control it, it doesn’t control you.

This is a very simple, but very powerful change that comes in varying degrees. It starts with The Evil Red Notification Badge of Death and ends with all forms of notifications.

I turned off The Evil Red Notification Badge of Death a *long* time ago for most of my apps. And have only reduced that further with time. Currently, I have only one app that I allow badge notifications for – VIP Email (which is still set to Fetch New Data manually, so it’s not a real time Red Alert). But this means I do get alerted when something that’s important comes through. And that’s it. No other badges.

I have some screen notifications, but very few, and even less on my watch. For a full tutorial on how to configure your phone for, I recommend the very good (and VERY long) post on how to improve your phone [How to configure your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You]. 

I have adopted many of the recommendations. Duplicating the post doesn’t make any sense, but will post a screenshot of my home screen. You can see I have no social media and only SMS messages (still no notifications) on my home screen. “Healthy” options (like Medium) and utilities populate the screen. This is Happiness by Design so I don’t feel anxious when I open my phone. Mail, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, etc all live in a Messages folder on my second screen (with badges only for VIP email). I open them when I’m ready, not when they’re ready.


We all have limited willpower and self control. A few simple changes can have a big impact on your life. A quick check shows I average 22 minutes per day on Social Networking (Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin). That’s down from 2hrs+ before I made these changes.

New Year/New You. Give it a shot, see how you feel 🙂

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