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Strategies for staring at my phone less

~2 min read

There’s been a lot of well deserved criticism going around lately of algorithm driven endless feeds of content, and my co-worker Ryan Schachte’s “Simplifying my life with more devices” blog post had me seriously considering getting a Light Phone. I almost did it.

But… I just don’t think I can give up the amount of functionality available in a modern smart phone. Instead, I resolved to reduce my screen time and try to take inspiration from the Light Phone. So here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. Aggressively disable all notifications on anything that isn’t crucial for people to be able to contact me. For a while I had many notifications silently going into the notification tray, but fully removing them has been great. Now I don’t feel like there’s a pile building up of things I haven’t looked at yet.
  2. Delete shortcuts to any app that has infinite content. I’m not ready to delete those apps completely yet, but I should at least have to consciously think to go to them and make it a little harder.
  3. Set screen time limits on infinite content apps. This is pretty straight forward.
  4. Make the infinite content apps grayscale. This works surprisingly well for reducing the amount of time I’ll spend on these apps. At first I made everything grayscale, but I quickly ran into things I wanted exceptions for. Like Calendar, Maps, Photos, Camera, Google Home (for Nest doorbell), etc. This list kept growing, and I do find color to be helpful information in many circumstances.
  5. Charge my phone in the kitchen at night. Also maybe obvious, but this is great for going to sleep quickly rather than scrolling for an indeterminiate amount of time before being exhausted enough to put it down.
  6. Rely on my Apple Watch when possible. Keeping my phone in my backpack or on the counter when I’m around the house just to try to reduce the total amount of screen wakes. This might go without saying, but I’m also extremely strict about the notifications I allow on my watch as well.

I’ll report back after a few more weeks to see how this experiment goes, but I feel like this combination of intentional adjustments is working well already, while not requiring me to really sacrifice the capabilities of a smart phone.

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