Simon Cowell has been without a mobile phone for 10 months now - and the music mogul says he’s far happier. But for those of us who don’t have a chauffeur to get us from A to B and an assistant to take calls, is going phone-free actually possible?
“I don’t think it’s realistic for any of us to be without communication,” says digital detox expert and author of ‘Off’, Tanya Goodin. “But we can definitely do without being glued to our devices 24/7.”
Turn off notifications.
Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, says everything about the way notifications work - and draw us in - is “just as their designers intended”. It’s an addictive game of trying to get rid of your notifications - and never succeeding.
Goodin says every single notification should be turned off “with no exceptions”. It should be a tool that you pick up whenever you want to, not one that dictates when you look at it by buzzing, ringing or flashing up on your screen.
Put your phone away, out of sight.
Research from Harvard University found that even if your phone is face down and switched off, it has the power to distract you.
Goodin says: “We need to be able to put our phones away at work. In the office, put it in a drawer or in your bag, don’t take it to meetings. When you come home, put it away somewhere. They’re a lot easier to ignore if they’re not right in front of you.”
The author recommends trying to go device-free for 30 minutes and gradually building that time up to one hour, two hours, a whole evening, etc.
Ban your phone from the bedroom.
If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media when you’re meant to be sleeping, put your phone on charge in another room and invest in a good old-fashioned alarm clock to wake you up. “This is a really good thing to do but it’s something that everyone struggles with,” says Goodin.
Prioritise your apps.
Move all of your useful apps - things like maps, work emails, the calculator, weather - to the first screen of your phone and move “digital junk” to the third or fourth screen, Goodin recommends. That way you have to scroll to view the apps and it might just be enough to put you off constantly checking them.
Digital junk is “the stuff that sucks you into an internet black hole”, says Goodin. “Social media is the biggest problem.” She also suggests pushing your Netflix and YouTube apps further back too.
Leave your Whatsapp groups.
Goodin says she often speaks to people who say their family and social circle Whatsapp groups are endlessly buzzing. “If you’re in any kind of group with people and there are even five or six of you, you could have hundreds of notifications on your phone,” she says. “So unnecessary messaging, where people are just chatting in a group, is a big drain of time.”
If they’re stressing you out or taking up time, leave those groups for dust and don’t ever look back.