5 Tips To Stay Off Your Phone More

By Alyssa Severin


The door shut behind him, and I slunk back down, curling into my still-warm spot on the couch. My husband just left for work, and the newness of the morning felt palpable, full of possibility; what should I do today? I grab my phone, only inches from reach, and before I know it, I’m scrolling. I am scrolling when the morning light begins filtering through our blinds, casting its glow and hope into our tiny apartment. I am obsessively reading the latest news story when the 9 o’clock hour hits 10, and I am switching from one social media platform to another when the texts from a group thread start filling my screen. Ironically, the distractions within my distraction cause me to stop, making me realize that once again, I have used time—precious time—engaging virtual realities that, if I’m being honest, have made no lasting good on my day. The cheery morning now feels cloudy; my momentum has slowed. I’m getting ready for the day at 11am. How did this happen? 

1) Know the Trade-Off’s

            We care for our phones like a parent nurtures their newborn, available at any moment for any need or desire that arises. When, however, we are more attuned to the mighty little rectangles in our pockets instead of the people, moments, and opportunities surrounding us, we have committed a fundamental misuse. Every time we scroll, we are choosing something, whether a delayed bedtime, momentary distraction, or interrupted dinner. These are the trade-off’s, and they are constantly at work. Get in the habit of asking yourself whether phone-time will cause an interruption between your relationships, health, productivity, or rest. Sometimes, the answer is a genuine no, it won’t. But a lot of times, the answer is yes, and it is in those seconds where revisiting the question is a serious discipline.

2) Set Yourself Up for Success

            Everyone has their phone-vice; for me, it’s using my phone as a filler. A simple walk between point A and point B turns into a chance to briefly check notifications. If a conversation turns towards an unfamiliar subject on a drive with friends, my phone makes a quick appearance and less-quick disappearance. I get the most stuck when I use my phone without clarity of purpose; when I use it to fill the gaps in normal, everyday scenarios. Setting ourselves up for success is aided by identifying these personal vices. For you, it might be the habit of scrolling before you fall asleep, or checking e-mails first thing in the morning. Brainstorm ways to combat these tendencies; it might be utilizing the Do Not Disturb function, putting your phone out of reach, and then reading for a few minutes in bed. It could mean waiting to check e-mails until a specified time, or only at the office, or only while sitting at a computer. Whatever it looks like, start by noticing your patterns, and after, find ways to alter them.

3) Exchange Guilt for Grace

            It is unrealistic to expect mastery of time-management regarding phones; we know that. There will be countless times, even when practicing new habits, that getting sucked into scrolling through social media or playing exciting games will happen. Guilt might be the first reaction to hit, or general feelings of dissatisfaction, and it is (hard) work in itself to get past those. The power-struggle between our phones and ourselves is real, so give yourself grace when it magnetizes your grip and leaves you feeling a little meh; you are not alone.

4) Acknowledge Your Intent

            When you do sit down, phone in-hand and ready to “turn-off” for a bit, start asking yourself what you want out of this time, and what boundaries are necessary to remind you of that intent. There are times where I’ve had tangible, inspired energy after getting comfortable on the couch, a cup of afternoon coffee nearby, and done nothing but filtered through Instagram, slowly and purposefully, until the last drop of coffee is consumed. My intent? Being present; not scrolling too quickly—like I do when I’m filling time—reading the captions, immersing myself in the moments and stories people have chosen to share. My boundary? When the coffee is gone, my time is up, and I move on to the next thing. Discover the ways that encourage you to use your phone well, and then enjoy it fully, having confidence that your intent is clear and structure is set.

5) Engage in Honest Conversations

            Navigating the question of phone-usage isn't meant to be done alone. Phones will only continue being apart of our lives, which means conversations about using them in healthy and appropriate ways are on the table for anyone to initiate, and anyone to participate in. It could be as simple as asking intentional questions with close friends, family, or significant others…I’ve been wasting so much time on my phone, have you figured out any ways to fight that? A personal anecdote is an easy conversation starter, and most likely, the person listening has experienced their own bouts of phone fatigue, too. More often than not, when one person is willing to open up or engage a topic, others follow suit, making the opportunity for helpful discussion full of potential and possibility.