Your smartphone may be holding you back.

By Nick Barancyk

Smartphones: They follow you everywhere, sleep by your bedside and watch you at work. Like shadows, they are each unique yet owned by all. It’s a chore just trying to forget about them.

A new study from the University of Texas found just the presence of a smartphone is enough to reduce cognitive capacity. As wells of entertainment, communication and quick dopamine surges, they are hard to ignore. This act of ignoring takes mental effort, an effort publishers of the study say drains performance. Changing habits is difficult, requiring psychological rewiring and concentrated will, but it can be done. If you think you’re logging too many screen hours, here are 10 tips to help you break up with your smartphone.

  1. Set an intention.

The average American uses his or her phone for more than five hours each day. Start earning those minutes back by blocking out regular no-phone times. You’re creating a habit in time by setting a routine, thus making it easier to abstain in the future. After awhile, you may find you no longer have those phone cravings.

  1. Turn off notifications.

Notifications keep your smartphone buzzing and flashing. All this excitement makes it more difficult to ignore and increases the chances of a quick peek at your screen. Remember, many social-media sites are programmed to be addicting, and they’ll use all the notifications they can to keep you coming back for more.

  1. Give yourself space.

For almost 50 percent of smartphone owners, their first phone check-in occurs right after they wake up. To break that habit, charge your phone away from your bed or in a separate room altogether. Use a clock instead of using your phone as an alarm. Starting the day offline will help set a solid foundation for healthy phone use.

  1. Keep it out of sight.

Take your phone off the table and put it into a purse or pocket. By doing so, you eliminate the visual distraction and reduce the temptation to pick it up. As the previously mentioned study found, people with hidden smartphones performed better than those with phones in sight.

  1. Find a hobby.

Take up a new hobby or an activity that requires focus. They can be hands-on projects like pottery or just simple walks outside. You’ll be spending less time on your phone while accruing feelings of accomplishment.

  1. Power it down.

When your phone isn’t in use, cut the power or switch it to airplane mode. Each tiny obstacle you can put in the way of yourself and the phone’s access to the internet is another opportunity to pause and question whether you really need to be online in the first place.

  1. Fight tech with tech.

There is a host of focus-oriented apps dedicated to increasing productivity. Tracking apps like Moment monitor screen time, while apps like Forest take a gamified approach by rewarding focus with a virtual woodland.

  1. Carry physical entertainment.

Perhaps the most tempting time to check those updates is while waiting. More than 62 percent of Americans pull out their phones while in line. By carrying a magazine or book with you, you’ve given yourself an alternative option to Facebook.

  1. Treat yourself.

Breaking a phone addiction is tough, so be sure to reward yourself for time spent offline. It could be that piece of chocolate you’ve been eyeing or those new shoes. Whatever the reward, it will be a physical motivator to help you work toward a greater psychological goal.

  1. Quit warm turkey.

Changing habits is a process that takes time, so don’t try all these tips at once. You want to gradually wean yourself off to mitigate the effects of withdrawal. A little irritability and restlessness are to be expected in the beginning, so don’t be too hard on yourself if at first you don’t succeed.


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