Mobile applications are designed to keep us using the service. Scrolling mindlessly on a slow drip of dopamine looking for the next novel image that will make us laugh, cry, or question. However, this is not good for productivity and can leave us unmotivated when challenges arise when we aim to achieve our goals.
Many of us would like to keep these apps around to stay in touch which friends and family or to grow our business or content we create. How do we cut back on these addictive apps to prime ourselves for mental challenges and use the dopamine hits as a reward for solving problems for others?
I came across this tactic with a video by Improvement Pill on YouTube. The idea is to reset everything; mind, body, and spirit. For the brain, we are to deprive ourselves of any stimuli. This includes books if I remember correctly. With the body, we are to eat no food and drink nothing other than water. So no coffee or tea, the idea is, and flavors can do just that.
Finally, we have the spirit, in the video, the creator mentions that meditation is allowed during these 24 hours. If you are like me and don't agree with mediation on a spiritual level, prayer is the best go to.
After going for 24 hours of removing all stimuli the creator says he feels his most creative and has no desire to do anything other than to be creative. Going through this kind of fast but sounds promising but also extreme. If I ever choose to try this method, I'll be sure to write about my results.
Change Your Launcher
I recommend switching your Android launcher to T-UI, a launcher that emulates a Linux terminal. Yeah, it's super cool! When I did this for the first time just for the sheer nerdiness of having a terminal as my launcher, I found an interesting side effect.
I started to notice all the times I picked up my mobile device to do nothing but pass the time. When this happens I would grab my phone, unlock it, and right then I realized I had nothing to do. The reason I noticed this action is because T-UI makes you type in the app you want to run (just like you would in a terminal).
The mindless device usage started to fade away.
No Home Screen Icons
If changing your launch is too nerdy for you I recommend removing all apps from your home screen. This one extra barrier can be enough to have you catch when you are only on the device to kill time or boredom. Since getting my new mobile device about a month ago this has been my approch. I will most likely go back to T-UI because it's nerdy but also keept me from forming musle memories when opening certain apps.
Even though I have no home screen icons (other than the dock at the bottom) I found my fingers are still picking up where things are in the app screen. The only help is when installing and uninstalling the apps shift but I don't install apps that often.
Choose Apps That Aid You
Digital Detox by Urbandroid is one such app that will help you break the addiction to these mobile applications.
This integrates with their other app Sleep As Android to help you stop using your phone while laying in bed so you can get better sleep!
I am trying this out now as I type this post. It's a bit odd at first because if you stop the app early, you are charged $1 (or higher if you choose) as a punishment. Luckily you can set apps as exceptions, some of the ones I wanted are:
- Bitwarden, so I can get my passwords
- Phone, so if my wife needs me, I can answer
- Spotify, since I use it all day.
- Standard Notes, for... well... note taking.
- Bitpay, to access my funds
- Google Pay, money...
- Ebook Reader, that's not an addiction
Digital Detox has a nice countdown, so you know how long is left as well as kind words of encouragement. After completing one of their detoxes, the app awards points so you can show off to all your friends (I guess...)
Uninstall & Use Web Versions Only
The grand-daddy of them all! Just delete those apps and only use the web browser version. I know Instagram is lame and won't let you post without the app, but some services will let you post via a third party.
The reason this works is, again, friction. It's more effort to log into your laptop than to pull out a phone. Most people don't carry a laptop around, so that means for most of the day they won't have the temptation to pass the time by leaving their own mind.
If you are an email kind of nerd you can sign up for mine here. You can always replay to any of my emails to start a conversation or ask me a question.