Smartphone Addiction: A 3-Step Recovery Process

As of 2014, the average American spends 4.7 hours a day on their smartphones. For the longest time, I was probably spending at least that many hours on my Galaxy S6. Every time I was in lecture, in the bathroom, or even in a long elevator ride, I’d open my phone to see if I had any new notifications. It was clear that I had  smartphone addiction, a condition that has its own page on WebMD. Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve cut smartphone usage by half (estimated) by making three critical changes. Here’s what I did, along with instructions on how to implement those changes on a Samsung S6 running Android 5.1.1 (most major phones, including iPhones have analogous options).

Disable All Notifications: My first move to regain control over my phone was to disable notifications from my noisiest apps, What’s App and Facebook. To disable notifications, do the following:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Under the Device heading, click Sounds and notifications
  3. Under the Notifications heading, click App notifications
  4. Click on the app you’d like to block notifications from and select “block notifications”

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Block Kill-Time Websites from my Phone: I realized that I was still spending too much time opening and browsing Facebook on my phone, so I decided to get rid of it completely. First, I uninstalled the app, but that helped only marginally. I needed to block it from Chrome as well. While Chrome doesn’t allow you to block access to specific websites, it does allow you to disable javascript from running on specific websites, though it’s not immediately obvious how. Here are the steps to block Facebook from your phone:

  1. Go to Chrome Settings
  2. Under the Advanced heading, click on Site Settings
  3. Click on Javascript and change it from “Allowed” to “Blocked”
  4. You will be able to add exceptions. Go ahead and add “facebook.com” and “m.facebook.com” (the mobile site)
  5. Once they appear as exceptions, click on “facebook.com” and then click on “Permissions” to change it from “Allowed” to “Blocked”
  6. Repeat for “m.facebook.com
  7. Now, you can re-enable javascript for all other websites by changing the general setting from “Blocked” to “Allowed,” and Facebook will remain inaccessible

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Pause Email Noise: Perhaps the biggest productivity tip out there for anyone who gets more E-mails they’d like to deal with is to batch E-mails. Instead of receiving E-mails whenever people send you them, set up Gmail to only receive E-mails at specific times. I’ve batched E-mails so that I only receive E-mails at 11 AM (so that I can enjoy my morning without having pressing concerns), 5 PM, and 10 PM. I’ve found that the Chrome extension “Inbox Pause” works best and carries over to your mobile phone (even if  you’re using the Inbox app and not default Gmail app).

  1. Download Inbox Pause
  2. Click on the Blue Pause that appears when you load Gmail
  3. Click on “Move messages to Inbox on a schedule” and choose appropriate times
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