You can’t manage what you can’t measure

There are many similarities between dieting and reducing phone addiction.  For both portion control is critical, willpower can easily be overcome, and feeding your brain healthy content instead of the junk food offered up by Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram has much better results.

If you’re trying to reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone you’ll need to accurately count minutes like a dieter counts calories.  Fortunately iOS and Android have recently started providing an easy way to do this.  Perhaps they recognize the very products they’ve created are harmful to people?  

In his latest book, Digital Minimalism, author Cal Newport calls smart phone addiction “the next smoking.” It started out cool and everybody was doing it, but decades later we discovered the product was engineered to be addictive and the long term side effects are negative.  Soon we may start to see phone free restaurants and people may look at you disapprovingly when you take out your phone at parties.  Perhaps one day we’ll even see a warning label on smart phones similar to cigarettes and alcohol. 

For now the providers of addictive technology have adopted the self-regulation model.  iOS provides the “Screen Time” feature and Android calls it “Digital Well Being.”  Both features are nearly identical.  They measure the time you spend in each app and display it to you in easy to understand graphs.  They even group apps together so you can see how much time you spend on categories like social networking, productivity, creativity, reading, entertainment, education, and health & fitness. 

You can even set time limits, unique by day if you want, for each of these categories and your phone will display a reminder when you have reached the time limit.  This way you can use your rational brain to decide in advance how much time you want to dedicate to social media, games, email, or videos before your emotional brain gives into the stimulation and you lose another twenty minutes of time. 

You can set ‘downtime’ to automatically block certain apps during preset times.  If you want to focus more at work perhaps 8am to 5pm is a good choice.  If you want to be present for the few hours a night you spend with your kids, perhaps 5pm to 9pm is good.  Either way these features give you an easy way to monitor the time you spend on your phone. 

Both apps allow you to track your time across all your devices.  So you can’t cheat by using up your time on your phone and then switching to your tablet.  If you want to really take things to the next level use the password feature, but have someone else set it and not tell you what it is.  

Since it’s Friday, don’t forget to do your Friday Planning. Have a great weekend!

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