5 Ways to Limit Smartphone Use during the Work Day

Smartphones are one of the most exciting modern-day inventions, but they can also become a major source of distraction during the work day. Before COVID, studies found that the average American spent around 5.4 hours a day on their mobile phone. Just 6 months after the COVID-induced lockdown, a December 2020 study found that mobile phone usage was up 25% to 7 hours a day. This increased mobile phone usage could contribute to decreases in productivity and motivation, as more mobile phone usage is correlated with increased anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. Even knowing all of this, it can be difficult to limit screen time because these devices are insanely addictive. Here are 5 ways to help you limit smartphone use during the day so that you can hopefully be happier, healthier, and more productive:

  1. Set time limits on certain apps

Most phones have settings that allow you to limit the time spent on specific apps each day—this feature is called ‘screen time’ on iPhone and ‘digital wellbeing’ on android. This allows you to actively limit the time spent on particularly addicting apps, such as social media applications (e.g. twitter, reddit, instagram, youtube). This feature is a great way of preventing you from mindlessly scrolling for longer than you intend.

  1. Leave your phone in a separate room

If you find yourself unable to stop habitually checking your phone or scrolling through social media, one option is to just leave your phone in a different room than your work office. If you are working at home, then you could leave your phone in the kitchen or bedroom, far away from your desk or office. This way, you will have to intentionally walk across your living space in order to check your phone. This adds both a mental and physical barrier to checking your phone, which can be extremely helpful.

  1. Turn off email and text notifications

Email and text notifications can be very distracting during the work day. You could be working hard to solve a problem and then a random email or text can totally take your out of your flow and halt your momentum. When you turn off or mute notifications, this distraction is completely removed. Then you can check your emails or texts every few hours, in a proactive and intentional way. Research has shown that batching notifications in this way can improve wellbeing and productivity.

  1. Delete distracting apps from your phone

If you find that you are manually overriding the time limits or walking across the room to check reddit, one idea is just to delete these apps from your phone entirely. This adds another degree of friction between you and distracting phone applications, as manually re-downloading apps and signing in (i.e. having to remember your password) is quite tedious. This may your best option if you find that just having the app on your phone makes it difficult to have a balanced relationship with your mobile device.

  1. Turn your phone into greyscale mode

One thing that makes our smartphones so dazzling is that they are full of rich colors and exciting videos/images. One way to make looking at your phone less appealing/stimulating is to turn on greyscale mode, which essentially turns everything into black and white. This makes looking at your phone much less absorbing and therefore easier for you to put your phone down after you are done using it for your intended purchases. Here are instructions for this setting on iPhone and Android.

Final thoughts: Hopefully these tools help you curb your smartphone usage so that you can be happier and more productive during the work week. That said, all of these settings can be manually overridden and turned off. The ultimate truth is that you are in control: you have to make the choice to limit your phone usage, and the best tool for doing so is self-discipline. Perhaps find a different activity to take breaks during work, such as meditation, walking outside, or exercise. Have a great week everyone!

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