3 min read

How to reshape your phone use habits

Do you start walking when the walk sign lights up?
How to reshape your phone use habits
Photo by Basil Samuel Lade / Unsplash

"Can I get you anything else"


While waiting at the grocery deli counter recently I watched what I'm sure is a regular occurrence for the workers there, as with most service workers I would guess.

Scene: Lady is fully consumed in her phone. Worker asks her what she wants and she pulls her head up, almost surprised that somebody is talking with her. She tries to remember what she even wanted and orders it. She goes back into her phone while the worker prepares her items.

He then comes back and presents the thinly sliced turkey she asked for. Again, she pulls her head up puzzled another human needs her attention. She grabs her turkey, offers a quick thanks, and walks away with her head back in her phone.

Lift your head up

Coming out of this interaction, I could see the deli counter employee's mood plummet. The story he was telling himself is that the extra effort he went through to get the thickness just right for her wasn't even noticed. He felt inhuman at that moment. Nothing more than a turkey slicing robot.

To top this off, I'd be willing to bet the lady had no idea this was happening just a few paces back as she continued her walk through the grocery store fully consumed in her phone.

I asked the gentlemen how often something like that happens. Not surprisingly, he said all the time. I tried to go the extra mile to read the situation, make a little extra conversation, and genuinely thank him for the great service.

The goal in this entire journey is to strip away the stuff that doesn't matter so you can unlock more space to do your own original thinking, not just copy some influencer (I hate that word, btw) on Instagram.

Reshape your phone habits

Today is all about reshaping our phone habits so we are in control of how and when we use our phone, not a slave to it. In control so we have more time to think rather than mindlessly scrolling through social media. And in control so we have time to experience life's moments.  

I watched Brene Brown's Call to Courage on Netflix over the weekend and one point she covered was how it's life's simple and basic moments we would crave most if we were gone.

Focus on being present with those around you and you'll have a richer life.

A starter guide of tips

Now, onto a few tactical tips to retrain your phone usage habits and clear the way to experience life.

  1. Set time of day limits for yourself so you do not cut into your home time or sleep time my mindlessly scrolling your phone. Using iPhone's Sceen Time, I block all social media and work apps between 8 p.m. - 7:30 a.m. so I can (slowly) retrain my urges to check.
  2. This is a pretty common tip, but I strongly recommend it. DO NOT charge your phone in the bedroom. It hurts your ability to wind down for bed and is easy to grab the next morning and stay in bed scrolling (I know!). And please don't use the excuse that your phone is your alarm clock. Buy an alarm clock!
  3. Be present in conversation with others. Keep your phone in your pocket or bag. As soon as you pull your phone out while in a 1:1 or small group conversation, you signal to them that they are not as interesting or important.
  4. Leave your phone at home when possible. Just remove the temptation.
  5. When you're alone, take time to experience what’s around you. While waiting at deli counter, grocery store line, waiting for the elevator, and especially going for a walk.
  6. Please look up while walking down the street. Nobody likes playing frogger to avoid you. Related, consider looking up while on street corner and actually walk across the street when the walk sign illuminates. Shocking right?

Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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