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How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Your Phone

It's time for a digital disconnect.

As remote learning and working from home have quickly become our new reality, our cell phone use has greatly increased. People are working extra hours, making themselves readily available and having a hard time disconnecting. We all need to take a step back. But how?

We chatted with Laura Joss, who holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience with a Masters degree in Judgment and Decision Making and is the Global Director of Customer Experience Product Research at Motorola who gave us five tips on how to have a healthier relationship with your phone.

Silence and flip your phone over so you don’t see the screen. 

Most people keep their phones in sight most of the day, but lights, sounds and animations on screen can cause continuous distraction and reduce focus. People tend not to want to put their phones too far away, as this action can cause anxiety for those who are worried they will miss a key call or not have their camera within reach if the perfect photo opportunity comes up. Flipping your phone over allows your phone to still be within reach if needed, but reduces sounds and sights that could be distracting, putting you more in control of when and how you choose to interact with your device. When we created Motorola Razr, we actually had this in mind which led to the development of the Quick View Display on the front of the device—it allows you to text, email, navigate but then go on with your day with minimal distractions. Check your device—some have built-in features like Motorola’s Moto Actions, which allows you to automatically put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode when you flip over your phone.

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Have a goal.

We frequently hear stories in our research from people going to their phones to check an email, only to end up scrolling social media apps or otherwise getting distracted in their phone. Be intentional when you go into your device. If you are going to check an email, for example, remind yourself of the task you’re there to complete and put the phone back down. 

Make it a game. 

One creative way we’ve seen users try to manage their device dependency is by making it a game with friends or family like seeing who can go the longest without touching their device, or putting all the devices in the middle of the table facedown. The point is to make it socially unacceptable to interact with your phone.

Hide the most distracting apps.

If you know specific apps are more likely to distract you, utilize folders or additional home screen panels to make them harder to access instead of having them front and center on your phone screen, just like hiding the cookies in the cabinet instead of having them out on the counter. This simple trick will make it a more user-initiated action instead of a mindless drift into the app.

Tune in to your behaviors. 

At the end of the day, most complaints about phone dependency start with a general unawareness of how much time is being spent on the phone, but knowing is too much or it’s not purposeful. Take a week and observe when you feel the most distracted or frustrated, and take note. Understanding your behavior pattern is the first step in deciding what you might want to do to make a change. For example, if you see that you frequently stay up too late because you get sucked into scrolling through an app, you can give yourself a boundary like setting a timer to allow 15 minutes of phone time instead of an hour. Or, if you see that you tend to pick up your phone a lot at dinner, try not bringing your device to the table. Knowing what specifically affects you is the best way to start tackling the problem so you can get back to a healthier relationship with your device.