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Addicted to your mobile phone? 3 surprising ways to beat it

·4-min read
Woman in yellow jumper looks at phone, hands hold phone with cable tied around wrists.
It's official: we're addicted to our phones. This is how you fight back. (Images: Getty).

Research has shown that the average person touches their phone 2617 times per day.

That’s a lot of pings and dings, not to mention swiping, typing, and clicking. The average Australian spends 5.5 hours per day on their phones, which equates to over 16 years of our life. Surely there are better ways to use our time on this planet?

If you are looking to tame your mobile phone addiction, here are three strategies to help.

1. Nudge yourself off your phone

Reducing time on your phone doesn’t have to mean making big changes in your life. Sometimes it’s the smaller changes that can have the biggest impact.

Matt Mullenweg, a founding developer of WordPress, the open-source software used by over 31 per cent of the web, is a big fan of making subtle changes to nudge himself towards healthier digital habits.

“If what is closest to me in the bed when I wake up is the Kindle and not the phone, I'm more likely to read,” describes Mullenweg. “But if the phone is on top of the Kindle, I'm more likely to look at the phone.”

Making sure he leaves his Kindle on top of his phone is therefore a small, but effective strategy for doing more reading and less phone checking.

Think about what simple changes you could make to your physical environment, such as placing your phone physically out of reach for the majority of your day to help tame your mobile phone usage.

2. Reflect on your motivation for wanting to use your phone

For Wharton Professor and best-selling author Adam Grant, being conscious about his motivation for checking his phone for reasons such as social media is critical.

He warns people that if the urge to scroll through Facebook or other social media sites is constantly taking you away from your work, then your work probably isn’t motivating enough.

“I actually feel the opposite impulse. If I'm scrolling through Facebook, I'm like, ‘Ah! I'm going to have this really exciting work to do! I want to get back to that’”, Grant describes.

So while checking social media at work isn’t something Grant frowns upon, being cognizant of your motivation is key. The next time you reach for your phone to scroll through Instagram, ask yourself why you are doing this.

If it’s to avoid doing your work, then perhaps it’s time for a change of job instead of just trying to ‘fix’ your mobile phone addiction.

3. Extreme times call for extreme measures

Prior to becoming CEO of Moment, a company that helps people reign in their mobile phone usage, Tim Kendall was President of Pinterest and struggled a lot with his own phone usage.

He started to research what he describes as “brute force approaches” and discovered a product called the KSafe, a lockable kitchen safe with a built-in timer.

The KSafe was originally designed as a dieting product where dieters could lock away unhealthy food.

In recent years, the product has found a dual purpose for those struggling with mobile phone addiction whereby they could lock away their phones for hours at a time.

Kendall, himself, tried experimenting with locking away his phone on weeknights, and then for a few hours on weekends. While he doesn’t use the KSafe regularly anymore, he found it effective at the time.

“The thing that works for me today is in my house, I have an office and when I leave that office before I go have dinner with my family, I just leave my phone,” explains Kendall. “On my best nights, I don't go and get my phone until the next morning, which is effectively the same thing as putting it in a kitchen safe from 6pm to 8am.”

When thinking about staying off his phone for significant periods of time, Kendall says, “I find it hard and I go through withdrawal, but I also think that it has a meaningful impact on my relationship with my kids and my wife.

“I just feel less anxious and less psychologically toxic if I can take a break from my phone.”

Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading behavioural science consultancy and the host of How I Work, a podcast about the habits and rituals of the world’s most successful people.

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