Your phone is like a bag of artificially flavoured cheesy corn chips.
Have you ever opened up a bag of corn chips and noticed you couldn’t stop eating them?
This is no accident.
It’s not that you’re overindulgent or have a weakness for corn chips.
Food scientists work hard at figuring out the bliss point of food products. The Bliss Point is the amount of an ingredient, such as salt, fat or sugar, which optimises deliciousness. When you hit the Bliss Point, the pleasure pathways in your brain light up.
Why would food manufacturers spend millions of dollars trying to find the Bliss Point?
The reason is simple: so you keep going back for more.
Your phone and the apps on it are exactly the same as that addictive bag of corn chips. These products have been carefully engineered to deliver hits of dopamine and instant gratification. Billions of dollars have been invested to make you addicted to using this technology.
As The Slow Media Manifesto states:
Your time = their $
And just like a bag of corn chips, once you open up social media, you have to be careful how much you consume. The more you have, the more you want more. And this can wreak havoc with your health and happiness.
So what can you do to defend your focus?
Below are some simple strategies I recommend experimenting with to reclaim your time, energy and attention.
1. Buy a watch
Instead of checking the time on your phone’s home screen, invest in an old school watch. Not a fancy Apple watch that can receive messages, etc. Just one that tells you the time.
2. Minimise triggers
Pings, dings and rings from your phone take you off track. They pull your attention away from what you need to do. They tell you to check a message, open an email, etc.
Turn these all off.
Don’t even let your phone vibrate.
Here’s what I recommend: Have set times when you check your phone throughout the day.
3. Put on Do Not Disturb While Driving mode
If you’re worried people will think you’re being rude because you don’t respond to their calls or texts immediately, then this strategy is for you!
Do not disturb while driving mode will send an automated text message back to the person who has just messaged you.
The default message tells the person you can’t pick up the phone because you’re driving. But you can customise this message to suit your needs.
You could change the automated message to:
“Hi. This is an automated reply to let you know that I’m currently studying. I will not see your message straight away but I’ll get back to you soon.”
4. Delete social media from your phone
Let’s face it, if you have to open up your laptop and login to social media, you’re less likely to go on there.
If you must keep social media on your phone, have it blocked by default with an app. Allow yourself to go on only at certain times.
5. Disable notifications
You need to be very selective about which apps can send you notifications. Any notification is a trigger that can potentially derail you.
6. Disable raise to wake
If you have an iPhone, try this little experiment:
Pick it up.
Does the display turn on without you having to press a single button?
If yes, this means the Raise to Wake setting is on.
Turn this off by going into Settings > Display and Brightness.
By disabling this setting, you decrease your chances of getting derailed by seeing notifications every time you pick up your phone.
7. Go greyscale
The colours on your phone are hyper stimulating and intensify the pleasure experienced from using it. You can make your phone less pleasurable to use (and addictive) by turning the colours to greyscale.
You can do this by going into Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Colour Filters.
8. Install a blocker app
You can use technology to help you stay off technology. For example, the app Freedom allows you to schedule being locked out of certain sites for parts of your day. Stay Focusd will limit the amount of time you’re allowed on certain sites and will kick you off the Internet at a certain time (cue: bedtime).
9. Put your phone in another room
This is perhaps the simplest and most effective thing you can do. Before you sit down to do any work or face-to-face socialising, put your phone away. Out of sight is out of mind.
10. Create barriers
It may not be enough to put your phone in another room. If the urge to check your phone is strong, put your phone in a box in another room (maybe in a box that has a lock on it).
Alternatively, hand your phone to someone in your family who you trust. Tell them not to give it back to you until you finish doing what you need to do.
11. Do a Phast (i.e. phone fast)
Non-stop texting messes with your brain chemistry. So you need to give your brain a break from constantly processing and sending messages. This is where phasting can help.
Phasting is the digital equivalent of intermittent fasting. This is where you take time out from using your phone and looking at screens. It could just be for a few hours or an entire weekend. It’s up to you. But by doing so, you’re giving your brain and your senses a chance to readjust and recalibrate to the real world.
To sum up
Your ability to focus is your most important and valuable resource. Don’t let it get hijacked by some tech company in Silicon Valley. Practice these simple strategies to cultivate a healthier brain and less frenzied lifestyle.