Here’s how to (properly) put down your phone

Takeaway: Last week I challenged you to go as many days as possible without charging your phone. Some practical tips to help you do that (especially during this anxious time): rethink which jobs you hire your phone for, rearrange your home screen, take advantage of your phone’s many modes, and opt to get news alerts from a single source.  

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 48s. 

Podcast Length: 30 minutes, 1s (link to play podcast at the bottom of post).

It’s been a uniquely crazy and anxious few weeks (in an already stressful year), and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to coverage of the U.S. election, awaiting all the results that came in over the weekend. Maybe you’re spending more time than ever bouncing between news apps, or texting friends out of excitement and nerves.  

With our phones keeping us tethered to a world of worry, there’s no better time to try out the challenge we talked about last week: to see how many days you can go without charging your phone.  

My iPhone 11 Pro usually lasts for a day on a single charge, so this was an experiment to see if I could make the battery last for two days, or even three. In the end, I got to 2.5 days before running out of juice.  

For those who are interested in disconnecting for a bit during this crazy time, here are some practical tips for how to check your phone less and make your battery last longer. While it can be a fun competition with yourself, the real goal is to use your phone more mindfully—and hopefully less overall! 

1. Rethink the jobs you hire your phone for 

The late Clayton Christensen was known for a bunch of interesting nuggets of business wisdom, one of which was the jobs to be done theory. The premise is that every product we buy should do a job for us—whether it’s “hiring” Kleenex for blowing our nose or using Uber Eats to order another round of election night chicken wings.  

Today, our phone does so many jobs. It’s our alarm clock, GPS, newspaper, video game console, calendar… the list goes on. It’s no surprise we spend so much time on our devices when it’s our one-stop-shop for just about everything. To spend less time on your phone and make your battery last longer, consider switching some of these tasks to analogue devices—i.e. a nightside table alarm clock, physical newspaper, or agenda. Or, even better, cull the ones that don’t serve you (think: social media, video games, Netflix binges). 

2. Rearrange your home screen 

We’ve all opened our phone to text a friend only to 30 minutes later find ourselves scrolling on Twitter. Changing the layout of your phone’s home screen is one way to make your device less appealing.  

Consider the apps that make you feel anxious or unhappy, and either delete them or store them on the second or third screen, buried in a folder. I have social media apps stored in a “Social” folder (which I relabel as “Distractions” when I really want to deter myself from using them!). It’s a small extra tap to open them, but I find it’s enough of a reminder to use my phone with a bit more awareness.  

Reclaim your home screen with apps that are meaningful to you—maybe it’s a meditation timer, an audiobook app, or your workout tracker. The less you’re tempted to use your phone, the longer your battery will last.  

3. Take advantage of your phone’s many modes 

This one’s more of a hack, but it works. Modes like Do Not Disturb, Airplane mode, Low Battery mode, and Grayscale disable various features of your phone that will preserve its battery and make it less appealing overall.  

The power of Grayscale mode is especially worth highlighting. It simply turns your screen black and white, which may seem like no big deal until we realize that a lot of apps use color psychology to boost usage. News websites crank the saturation on photos so our screens appear more vibrant and exciting. Grayscale mode is great for your battery life and will make your phone less stimulating.  

4. Get news alerts from a single source 

This is a turbulent time, and it’s not helpful to be bouncing back and forth between a half dozen news apps. Choose your favorite news app and enable notifications—shutting off the alerts for all others. Being mindful and selective with your alerts will help you stay better focused and less stressed at a time when calmness is key.  

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The two-day phone challenge isn’t really about how long you can make your battery last—it’s about how to be more mindful and intentional about what you’re consuming. Remember that the path to better productivity runs straight through calm, and checking your phone less routinely is one stop along the way to get there. 

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