21 Feb Try These Little Nudges to Use Your Phone Less
Over 60% of us have tried to reduce our phone usage in the last year. Less than 40% of us have been successful. Illustrating what we have been writing about for years: It is incredibly difficult to use your phone less. Smartphones are designed to be addictive and we need a lot of help in opposing those designs. So, we have put together a list of behavioural nudges which can aid in your attempt to regulate your digital diet.
What are behavioural nudges?
Behavioural nudges are discrete practices which you can put into place to ‘nudge’ yourself to naturally make the right choices. They aren’t firm rules or in any way unbreakable, but having them in place could give you a second to pause and reevaluate your choices or at least make you aware of them. An example of a behavioural nudge could be to put healthier food at eye level: this doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the junk food, it just makes you more likely to go for the healthy option, and that is what we are trying to replicate here.
Make your phone more boring
The first way to nudge yourself to use your phone less is to make your phones look less appealing. Turn down the brightness and remove the colour (by enabling greyscale). Toning down the aesthetic of your phone will make it less attractive to you and has also been linked to reducing anxiety and liming screen use overall. In a similar vein, you could also make sure you regularly move apps around your home screen so that the muscle memory of reaching for Instagram for example doesn’t work and you have to make a conscious choice to click.
Turn off notifications
Another great way to use your phone less is to reduce notifications. There may be some which are genuinely essential, but most notifications can be turned off. You are unlikely to miss anything vital: that person who needs to contact you can always call you! This will also stop you from picking up your phone when you are busy with another task. We would instead recommend batch-checking email or social media which is the most efficient way to manage both anyway.
Most smartphones come with a feature which enables you to monitor your screen use and set limits if you want to. Whilst we would not recommend you use it as your sole ‘behavioural nudge’ (as we believe tech can never be the answer to tech addiction), it can be a useful tool. Most of the features allow you to ignore them, or enable more time, so they merely serve as a marker – making you aware of how much time you have been on your phone, stopping you from scrolling mindlessly.
Create time and space boundaries
One of our tried and tested recommendations is to enforce boundaries around space and time to allow yourself to be more present. For example you could set up a phone tray outside your kitchen or bedroom and start a habit of leaving it there when you enter that room. You can always choose not to, or to go back to get it later, but the sight of it will gently nudge you in the right direction and will encourage you to try it.
For more about how you can use your phone less – pick up a copy of our new book: My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open. Available to order here.