Adopt These 3 Habits to Overcome ‘Smartphone Addiction’ and Become Crazy Productive Today

Yes: Smartphone addiction is a thing, and you probably have it. Here’s how to break the habit while getting your lost productivity back

Do you have a smartphone addiction?

For how indispensable smartphones have become, — can you remember the last time you spent a day without yours? — they’re probably doing you more harm than good.

Research from the University of Texas suggests that we’re anywhere from 3-5 IQ points ‘dumber’ when our phones are within eyeshot.

(Did your brain wince just reading that?)

And according to a 2017 report by analytics firm Flurry, we’re spending five of these IQ-stunted hours on our phones per day. – Which means that we all have smartphone addiction!

If this news makes you want to defenestrate your iPhone and replace it with your Razor from high school, well, I can relate. (I know I can’t spare any IQ points!)

But our pocket technology isn’t inherently bad.

We just need to learn how to manage our smartphones intelligently. And that’s exactly what I’ll show you how to do. 

Smartphone addiction is simple to overcome

I’ve grown a lifestyle coaching business by teaching people how to fine-tune their technology use, how to break their smartphone addiction, and how to use their phones as IQ-boosting tools that enhance their lives and business.

And these strategies work for everyone — even the busiest salespeople who thought they were slaves to their phones!

Curious to learn how?

This article’s key points are:
  • Setting smartphone limitations – scheduling your usage
  • Starting up a notes system in your smartphone
  • Using the voice-control ‘Reminders’ app on your smartphone

1-Set daily smartphone limitations

I once had a client named Rashida who wasn’t responding well to my first phase of coaching — a total moratorium on social media. 

She thought I just meant to limit social media. 
Nope, I told her. It’s gotta go for a week.
She laughed,

“That’s not gonna happen. Like, I couldn’t function without Whatsapp.”

I said I’d have to refund her money and discontinue the coaching, then. — So when she finally realized I was 100% serious (and logged out of her accounts), she came back to me one week later with this:

“You just gave me four hours of my life back – per day. Can I go another week without Whatsapp, please?”

That’s how often she was mindlessly flicking back just to one single app…and she did it every day of her life!!! This was silently destroying her ability to focus on things that mattered and to enjoy herself.

And all it took was one week of restricting her smartphone use to get her quality of life and self improvement back on track!

Breaking your smartphone addiction creates instant productivity!

That’s why I advise all of my clients and audience members to set strict limitations for technology use in order to break their smartphone addiction. 

This starts with disabling notifications for everything but incoming phone calls. (This is your cue to do that, umm…Now.) 

Then you’ve got to schedule specific smartphone/email times into your calendar or daily planner – and stick to those times!

Some do checks every two hours for ten minutes–setting reminders on their smartphones for these times. Some check twice or three times a day at planned intervals. — But no matter what my clients’ communication demands are, all of them find that their quality of life (and productivity) improve ten-fold when they stop being slaves to their smartphones and technology.

It just takes a little discipline and planning.

And like my client Rashida experienced, the rest of my clients find that limiting their technology use and breaking their smartphone addiction gives them time to do all of the important and enjoyable things that they used to make excuses for. This unquantifiably increases their success and fulfillment!

Action steps:

  • You’ll want to alert bosses, clients and friends of your new communications schedule.

    Assure them that less is definitely more in this case, and that your responses will be more valuable, accurate, and thoughtful when you’re scheduling email as its own activity.

    You also might want to set up an autoresponder for the first few weeks of transitioning. Here’s what it should look like:

    “Hi! In an effort to respond to your message more thoughtfully and thoroughly, I’ve designated specific times throughout the day just for checking email. This will ensure that I give you the time you deserve.

    (Okay, I’ll level with you: it’s definitely for productivity, too.)

    This means that I probably won’t respond instantly like I used to. And if that’s this case with this email, – which it almost certainly will be, — don’t freak out. I will get back to you.

    It will be the best email you’ve ever gotten from me. And it will be worth the wait.”

    (Feel free to use this and modify it as you please!)

  • Decide how many times a day you’ll check your smartphone/email.

    Are you the type that can get away with only checking twice or three times a day? Then figure out which blocks of time (i.e: at 10:00am, after lunch, etc.) work best and commit to that schedule.

    I advise physically planning out checkboxes for smartphone use and communications in your daily planner:

    productivity planner - scheduling smartphone usage

    Kinda like this — just be specific!

    If your job is more client/customer oriented and you spend quite a bit of time checking your smartphone and email, then decide at what hourly intervals you’ll check.

    (Even if you have to check every thirty minutes, — which is a big IF, — then at least you’re having thirty minutes of uninterrupted focus at a time throughout the day. This is a vast improvement over the standard smartphone addiction.)

  • Stick with your new commitments for a month!

    Some people find that having accountability is the only way to do this. Others do just fine by scheduling recurring reminders or appointments in their phones specifically for checking their phones/email. — Do whatever works for you.

    (At the very least, though, give it a week! It may be difficult at first, but once you experience the mental and emotional freedom of responsible smartphone use…you’ll never look back!)

2-Start a system for taking notes

We’re supposed to be helping you break your smartphone addiction, right?

So wouldn’t my teaching you to use your smartphone all day for note-taking kinda defeat the point?

This might seem counterintuitive.

I get it. 

But when you trade out all your mindless phone distractions for mindful activities, – like reflecting on your thoughts and actions, and scheduling reminders for your most important goals, – that’s when you turn your smartphone into the productivity-boosting tool that it’s meant to be. And that’s an addiction you can feel good about!

Smartphone addiction can be easy to break -- IF you follow these simple rules

Kinda like the coffee addiction we ALL share

(In this case, think of your phone as more of an electronic Moleskin — or a digital Dr. Phil!)

So how can taking notes on your phone boost your productivity?

David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done,” refers to our minds as RAM hard drives.

And when a hard drive gets too full…

It freaks–out.

You know the panic that crescendos when you have so much to do but don’t quite know what to do? — or so many thoughts you’re trying to juggle at the same time that you feel like everything will fall all at once?

That’s a malfunctioning mental RAM.

And that’s what most of my clients come to me in desperation for, even though they’re super successful. 

Allen’s solution is to unburden your mental hard drive by uploading your thoughts and tasks onto a computer hard drive via a note-taking system. This will give you a couple IQ points back!

And if you manage this system correctly, as I’ll show you how to do in just a sec, you will forever be free of the anxiety caused by runaway thoughts and lack of direction. 

Setting up your notes system

First, you’ll need to choose a notes app – one that ideally syncs to your computer. 

If you’re an Apple lover, your phone notes automatically sync to your computer notes, and vise versa. (It saves sooo much time and hassle.)

Don’t have a Mac? Consider purchasing an iPhone, then download an iCloud account on your PC or laptop for free. – Or, you can use an independent notes system, like Evernote or Simple Note, that will sync between your phone and computer no matter what operating system you have.

But whatever you do…

Pick an app, and start using it!

I’ve never heard anyone complain of reflecting on their lives more, or feeling more purposeful, or being more organized. And that’s exactly what will happen once you commit to using your notes!

Second, you’ll want to create the actual system of note tabs:

Here are the basic folders you need to start:

  • Health & fitness
  • Career
  • Work
  • Happiness
  • Longterm goals
  • Self-Improvement
  • Life (for general observations)
  • Gratitude
  • Important people
  • Ideas
  • Progress
  • Next action—
Note taking for productivity

It’ll look something like this in a Mac

Once you create these tabs, and start using your notes app on a daily basis,

it will help you to capture things that would ordinarily slip through the cracks and bite you later– or worse, that would continue bouncing around in your head causing a ton of anxiety!

You just have to use your notes. 

Say your boss mentions a project that’s coming up next quarter and casually mention that she wants you to prepare for it next week.

Okay…

That would ordinarily fall through the cracks and bite you later ( when your boss is huffing and puffing about why that crazy important project is now two weeks delayed). — Or you would always think about the project in the back of your head; but since you don’t have concrete direction related to that task, you’re just going to have a bunch of anxiety. 

Now that you’re taking notes, though, on everything, you’re going to write the directive down by reflex:

“Prepare for project, Monday at 3:30.” 

Once it’s filed away, and you have a system that brings you back to your notes on a regular basis (see next section), your brain will be calm in knowing that it doesn’t have to worry. 

Next action reminders

To make sure you come back to your ideas and actually act on them, which is what gives you real peace of mind, David Allen suggests creating a “Next Action” subtab for each category.

(Subtabs are created by dragging a new note tab under an existing one–which becomes the ‘parent’ tab.)

For anything that you can’t do in five minutes and that must be acted on, file it away in the ‘next action’ subtab of the relevant category. You’ll just need to set a reminder to revisit your “Next Actions” list once or twice a week. (More on reminders in the next section.)

3-Take advantage of your reminders

Smartphones addiction is a real issue for most people—and it’s the apps that really get us. Polls show that 92% of our phone time is spent on them.

But when you start limiting your phone use in general, and start using your notes and reminders, your phone alerts you to focus on what you really need to be doing. Which turns your smartphone into a focus aid.

The easiest way to start using your reminders is to activate Siri or your Google Assistant and to dictate whatever you want to be reminded of.

reminders app on smartphone; productivity

For instance, if you want to begin your big project next Friday at 2:00pm, you’ll say: “At 8:00 pm next Thursday, remind me to set my 2:00pm alarm for starting new project.”

The wording has to be just like that example, otherwise the robot will confuse the times. And unfortunately you can’t schedule alarms past a day in advance. You can also manually set alerts in the reminders app—it just takes five times longer.

Oftentimes you can completely skip filing a ‘next action’ note if you immediately use your ‘reminders’ function. 

That’s the beauty of technology–it simplifies things. 

So the more you get in the habit of setting reminders for your ‘next actions’, the less you will have to rely on your next action tabs. Try setting some reminders for some important things that you’d usually forget today!

Action step:

Challenge yourself to set three reminders per day on your smartphone for the next week.

You can start by reminding yourself of that reminder! — 

“Siri, every morning at 9:00am, remind me to set three reminders today.”

If this sounds like it’ll make your smartphone even more distracting, again — I hear ya! But when you’re using your phone almost exclusively for acting towards your goals and staying focused…that’s the kind of smartphone addiction you actually want to have!

Conclusion

Although smartphones are incredibly useful, most of us use them more as high-tech escapes than as the self-improvement tools they actually are. You can get the most out of your phone (and break your smartphone addiction) by limiting the amount of time you spend on it, by getting organized with a system for note taking, and by using your reminders function on a daily basis.

Want more in-depth training on a distraction-free lifestyle? Consider my coaching program. 

A version of this article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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Written by Daniel Dowling
I went from being a highschool and college dropout to writing for the world's best publications in two short years. I owe ALL my success to habits like mindfulness and journaling. - So I built Millennial Success to share those incredible habits with you!