This productivity ritual will change how you think about your smartphone

Takeaway: To become more motivated, focused, and productive throughout the day, put your phone into airplane mode between 8pm and 8am.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 56s.

A pile of smartphone

I’m pretty sure I’ve come up with the best, most badass smartphone ritual ever.

You ready for it? Here it is:

Put your smartphone into airplane mode from 8pm to 8am.

That might sound like crazy-talk on the surface, but I’ve been turning on airplane mode on my smartphone for 12 hours every day, from 8pm to 8am, for the last couple of weeks, and so far I’ve had incredible results. You might need to adjust the ritual to fit your schedule, but I think 12 hours is the perfect amount of time to shut your phone off for every day. In my case, it’s 1.5 hours before I go to sleep (9:30 pm), and 2.5 hours after I wake up (5:30 am).

The ritual is very simple in theory, but many people have a lot of mental resistance to it, because 12 hours feels like a long time to go without feeling connected (even though you’ll be asleep for 2/3 of it). For that reason I’m going to jump right into ‘sales mode’, and try to sell you on all of the benefits I’ve experienced from this ritual.

Nighttime benefits

  • The ritual reduces your exposure to melatonin-blocking blue light so close to bed, helping you fall asleep faster, and sleep better. (I’m working on an article on melatonin and blue light for next week, stay tuned!)
  • Shutting off your smartphone calms down your mind before bed, letting your mind settle down instead of being caught in a vortex of activity right up until you have to go to sleep.
  • It forces you to tackle higher-leverage activities before bed, like reading and journaling. I recently (as an experiment) used my smartphone for an hour a day for three months, and one of my biggest findings from that experiment is how low-leverage most of the stuff you do on your smartphone is. Shutting your phone off an hour or two before bed helps you focus on bigger and better things.
  • Shutting off your phone helps you slow down and be more mindful before bed, which will make you happier, and make your life more meaningful.
  • You’ll sleep better, because you won’t feel compelled to check your phone in the middle of the night for new notifications and messages.
Another killer phone habit: When you’re having a coffee or eating a meal with someone, shut your phone completely off. Just do it.

Morning benefits

  • Not having a smartphone will get you out of bed faster, since you won’t have any distractions to lay in bed with. And if you’re anxious to connect first thing in the morning, you’ll practically jump out of bed to get to your computer.
  • The ritual forces you to deal with your notifications later in the day, when you have enough energy and motivation to actually do something about them (after you’ve completely woken up).
  • If you have a morning meditation ritual (like I do), your meditations will be much more productive when you don’t have 1,000 things flying around in your head.
  • Just like at night, shutting your phone off will force you to focus on higher-level things in the morning. For example, I plan out my entire day at the gym in the morning, without any distractions to compromise my focus.

Putting your phone on airplane mode (or better yet, shutting it off completely, though you may use your phone as a music player and alarm clock like I do) will make you more mindful, calm, focused, and productive. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be antsy for a week or so while your mind adjusts to being disconnected in the mornings and evenings, but trust me: the benefits are well worth the effort.

Smartphone image courtesy of Jon Fingas.

  • Tomas

    Really great article Chris. I have been trying a few tactics with my smartphone recently but I hadn’t thought of simply using airplane mode.

    • Thanks a lot man, good luck! Definitely my favorite ritual when it comes to technology :)

    • Ellen Symons

      Same here, airplane mode is an ingenious solution, I think it will meet my needs better than turning the phone off overnight but will keep me from seeing messages until I’m ready for them.

  • Tomas

    Really great article Chris. I have been trying a few tactics with my smartphone recently but I hadn’t thought of simply using airplane mode.

    • Thanks a lot man, good luck! Definitely my favorite ritual when it comes to technology :)

    • Same here, airplane mode is an ingenious solution, I think it will meet my needs better than turning the phone off overnight but will keep me from seeing messages until I’m ready for them.

  • Good stuff.

    I deleted all the time wasting apps and games on my iPhone.

    I also leave it in my bathroom at night (I have a stereo system in there I dock it to), so I’m not temped to use it at night or in the morning.

    • That’s awesome!! I’ve been on an app deleting spree lately, but the problem I have is so many apps fall somewhere in the middle; they’re very useful half of the time, and totally useless the rest of the time. Take the Mail app for instance: sometimes I love blowing through a bunch of emails when I’m traveling or waiting in line, but it can also be a pointless app when I’m just checking and know I don’t have the energy or attention to respond.

  • Good stuff.

    I deleted all the time wasting apps and games on my iPhone.

    I also leave it in my bathroom at night (I have a stereo system in there I dock it to), so I’m not temped to use it at night or in the morning.

    • That’s awesome!! I’ve been on an app deleting spree lately, but the problem I have is so many apps fall somewhere in the middle; they’re very useful half of the time, and totally useless the rest of the time. Take the Mail app for instance: sometimes I love blowing through a bunch of emails when I’m traveling or waiting in line, but it can also be a pointless app when I’m just checking and know I don’t have the energy or attention to respond.

  • Straightforward and effective right away, that’s possibly the best productivity tip of the year.

    It’s not easy to apply, though!
    I’ve committed not to check any device prior to my morning tea and meditation, and I have to gather a solid amount of willpower to follow that rule. I plan to extend it to other hours in the day. Thanks for opening the path of mindful daily habits.

    • Thanks man! Research has shown that when you make it a rule for yourself, it will eat up a lot less of your willpower, which I think is what makes this habit so great. When you create some sort of structure around a habit by setting rules, they’ve been shown to stick a lot quicker and better :)

  • Straightforward and effective right away, that’s possibly the best productivity tip of the year.

    It’s not easy to apply, though!
    I’ve committed not to check any device prior to my morning tea and meditation, and I have to gather a solid amount of willpower to follow that rule. I plan to extend it to other hours in the day. Thanks for opening the path of mindful daily habits.

    • Thanks man! Research has shown that when you make it a rule for yourself, it will eat up a lot less of your willpower, which I think is what makes this habit so great. When you create some sort of structure around a habit by setting rules, they’ve been shown to stick a lot quicker and better :)

  • What a great idea! Such a great way to be more productive.

  • What a great idea! Such a great way to be more productive.

  • Pedro H Ramos

    Very interesting tip, I def will try that!
    Just thinking how it could work in emergence situations, if someone needs to contact me in the middle of the night for example.
    I don’t have a phone home, only my mobile.

    • Really good point, I hadn’t thought of that! I have two housemates, so that situation usually doesn’t present itself. I think if you don’t shut your phone’s radio off completely, it’s going to be challenging to be as mindful when you know there is a whole world of entertaining alerts and notifications a few taps away.

      Have you thought about leaving your phone on loud in another room? I occasionally do that, and make sure that the only time I get alerted is when I receive phone calls (I shut notifications off for everything else).

      • Pedro H Ramos

        This is actually a really good idea. I tried before, but I forgot to disable the notifications, will try again, thanks a lot! ;)

  • Pedro H Ramos

    Very interesting tip, I def will try that!
    Just thinking how it could work in emergence situations, if someone needs to contact me in the middle of the night for example.
    I don’t have a phone home, only my mobile.

    • Really good point, I hadn’t thought of that! I have two housemates, so that situation usually doesn’t present itself. I think if you don’t shut your phone’s radio off completely, it’s going to be challenging to be as mindful when you know there is a whole world of entertaining alerts and notifications a few taps away.

      Have you thought about leaving your phone on loud in another room? I occasionally do that, and make sure that the only time I get alerted is when I receive phone calls (I shut notifications off for everything else).

      • Pedro H Ramos

        This is actually a really good idea. I tried before, but I forgot to disable the notifications, will try again, thanks a lot! ;)

  • Tania

    100% agree. I’ve been doing this for years, slowly increasing time (I used to turn it on when I woke up, then right after my yoga session, then right before shower and now, while having breakfast!). Not knowing what’s happening in the world DOES help me focus on myself and my goals. Great advice!

    • Fantastic! By the sounds of things, soon you’ll hardly be using your phone at all! ;-)

  • Tania

    100% agree. I’ve been doing this for years, slowly increasing time (I used to turn it on when I woke up, then right after my yoga session, then right before shower and now, while having breakfast!). Not knowing what’s happening in the world DOES help me focus on myself and my goals. Great advice!

    • Fantastic! By the sounds of things, soon you’ll hardly be using your phone at all! ;-)

  • Bryan Hume

    Chris, you’re the man. All of these articles are fantastic and I really like this tip. Thanks a ton!

  • Bryan Hume

    Chris, you’re the man. All of these articles are fantastic and I really like this tip. Thanks a ton!

  • Jenny Mullinder

    I agree with this in principle, but I text my boyfriend in the evening, it’s the main time of day we’re in contact when we’re not seeing each other soon, so it wouldn’t work for me personally. I could turn my internet off in the evening though!

  • Jenny Mullinder

    I agree with this in principle, but I text my boyfriend in the evening, it’s the main time of day we’re in contact when we’re not seeing each other soon, so it wouldn’t work for me personally. I could turn my internet off in the evening though!

  • Mahantesh T

    This is indeed one of most Mindful and Greatest tip i have ever recieved from any one. Because i am currently suffering from Less Focus, Less Sleep etc. BIG THANK YOU!

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