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The Break-Up of All Break-Ups: Take Back Control of Your Phone

Technology is a stealthy competitor. It surreptitiously steals two of our most valuable assets: our time and our attention. But breaking up with our phone is hard to do.


While our phones are stunning in their capabilities and make life and connectivity a lot easier, they are also designed to capture and hold us. Like slot machines, our phones and all their enticing apps were designed to fire up our dopamine — they’re colourful, fun, blingy with little rewards to keep your dopamine surging and to keep you addicted. It’s no wonder that we’re spending upwards of 2-hours a day on our phones playing, reading, watching or texting. If you’re how addicted to your phone you are, try this smartphone compulsion test.

You want to do something more meaningful, enjoyable or satisfying with your time?

Here’s advice from science journalist Catherine Price who wrote a book called How to Break Up with Your Phone and other experts on that topic:

What To Do (Bites)

  1. Start by understanding your motivation

    To be successful, you actually have to care to change your relationship with your phone. Is it stealing your attention from things that are more important to you? Are you able to put it away and resist the temptation to take even a quick look? Is scrolling the way you want to spend your leisure time? Yes? Not so much? Definitely not?

    Give yourself a moment to objectively reflect on how much time your habit takes and what you can get if you curtailed it.

  2. Create cues to remind yourself of your break-up goal

    We naturally go on auto-pilot and retreat to our old habits so it’s helpful to have cues to break our routines. That’s especially relevant when we’re exhausted and reaching for our phone as a break is the salve we think we need.

    Price suggests two cues to help force a deliberate choice and stop yourself from mindlessly picking up the phone and chewing up your time. Wrap an elastic hair band around your phone. Right in the middle. Seeing the band is a reminder to pause and decide why you’re going for your phone. Habit? Boredom? When you see the band ask yourself: is this how I really want to spend my time? How much time?

    Here’s another trick: change your lock screen to a question: “Do you want to pick me up right now?” See it here and check out her course. Both tricks help you move from autopilot to conscious choice.

  3. Put it away

    One common strategy that’s been shared with us is lock the phone away, figuratively, especially as you transition from work to life. Some literally leave their phone in their bag, briefcase or tote so it’s not seen or heard. They lead with the commitment that they want uninterrupted time with family, children or in silence and one way to do that is to remove the phone from sight.



  1. Get an alarm clock. If your phone is the first thing you touch in the morning because it’s what wakes you up, switch to a good old alarm clock. That way you won’t be tempted to look at emails, Slack or texts the minute you wake up.

  2. Turn your screen to black and white. Those slot machine like features look a whole lot less tempting in grayscale. Instagram looks less exciting without the pop of colour, so do videos. Black and white makes everything look kind of dull. Here’s how to do that.

  3. Pick up the phone and use it for its original purpose — call a friend, call a family member. Speaking to humans rather than texting actually yields connectivity.


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