Phone Addiction: How our phones kill our focus

Sep 17, 2022

Phone Zombies📱

Thought of the week:

Don't prepare, begin.

Too many people wait to start anything. Whether it’s waking up earlier, learning to meditate or losing weight — most people wait for the right time. -Mel R.


In this newsletter, I share the effects of phone addiction and how you can break the habit.

Some eye-opening stats for all you data nerds:

  • The average person touches their phone ~2,600 TIMES/day
  • The average American adult spends 3.75 HOURS/day on their phone
  • 71% of Americans check their phone within 10 minutes of waking
  • 47% of us say we believe we're addicted to our phones
  • 48% of people say they feel anxious when their cell phone battery goes below 20%

(But also the people that always have less than 10% battery stress me out)

Is that true addiction?

Let's check the definition and I'll let you decide:

A treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual's life experiences.

People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.

We've all done it... reached for our phone out of habit, boredom, or impulse.

We pull up to a red light and boom, reach for our phone.

We see our hand moving towards it, but we're not even really in control of it happening.

It just happens.

We swipe up, open an app, check for notifications, open another app, check for notifications, watch a video, and put our phone back in our pocket.

But somehow 20 minutes went by.

Wait, I just opened it to check ONE thing - did I fall into a time warp or something??

They'll suck you in and grip you so tight that you can't leave.

Apps are designed to increase engagement and time of usage.

They WANT you to stay glued to it - but of course, that's how they'll make money (not implying they're all money-hungry apps).

DYK 67% of men would rather endure an electric shock than sit alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes?

Most guys I start working with struggle to spend any time in solitude.

We're so used to dings, buzzes, catchy videos, and having answers to any question in our pocket.

Ever have that feeling like your phone is vibrating in your pocket, but it's not ringing??

The sensation was just made up in your mind.

Okay, so what gives?

It's gotten us so out of touch with ourselves and what we need to feel our best.

We're unfocused, can't sleep, are in a chronic state of stress, and our breathing is jacked up.

When we're constantly in consumption mode, our creative mind shuts off because why wouldn't it?

It has no purpose.

Our creative mind becomes a stoned guy in a lazy boy watching Fast & Furious eating Cheetos.

At the same time, our nervous system is in a chronic state of fight or flight.

They've even dubbed the term Tech Apnea which refers to the change in our breathing pattern when we're scrolling social media, emails, dating apps, etc

Our breathing becomes shallow, erratic, and we'll HOLD our breath.

Our shoulders tense up and our face tightens.

Which triggers a STRESS response in our body.

Then our body responds and engages our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), which has huge implications on our mood and well-being.

We spend ~4 hours a day on our phones, that's 4 HOURS of putting ourselves into a stressful state.

That's about the same amount of time it takes to run a marathon, watch The Irishman, finish an MLB game, or what 20 minutes at the DMV feels like.

Imagine if we spent just 10% of that time focusing on ourselves and RELIEVING stress.

We're so addicted to screens that we even barter with ourselves for approval that an app is OK because we're "productive" on it.

No wonder we're exhausted, burnt out, depressed, and anxious.

Do this:

Open your phone and go to Settings > Screen time (on iPhone).

See what your average time is and on which apps you spend the most time.

It also tracks how many times, on average, you pick up your phone during the day.

Warning: your stats might scare the shit out of you

I want you to just THINK about the idea of not using your phone for a month (besides text/calls).

What feelings just came up?

Did you say "No way, I could never."

Or "Oh that'd be a fun experiment!"

Or "Oof that'd be tough, but I am on this thing all the time - I bet I could use a refresh."

And no one ever said, "Man I missed my phone SOOO MUCH."

They always say something like, "Wow I can't believe how much better I feel. So much more in tune with people and my environment. I feel this amazing sense of inner calm."

We've relinquished control of our well-being to a 3x7 inch screen.

Time to take control back.

A few benefits of disconnecting from pixels and reconnecting with yourself:

  • Improved ability to focus deeply on tasks, projects, conversations, & relationships
  • A feeling of connectedness with nature and our surroundings
  • Clarity & coherence in thought
  • A deep sense of inner calm

We need to first break the cycle, but it's tough to take action because we don't always know what we're lacking until we put distance between ourselves and tech.

And we can't rely on willpower alone.

If you remember from a previous newsletter, willpower is fleeting and weak.

Changing our environment will have the biggest impact.

In Atomic Habits, James Clears says if we want to break a habit, we have to make it hard & unpleasant to complete.

Make it incredibly hard on yourself to grab your phone and start mindlessly scrolling - remember, willpower alone won't work (even as strong as you think yours is).

How you can break the cycle:

  • Put your phone in the other room when you sleep (get an old-school alarm clock)
  • Write down a specific amount of time you'll allow yourself to spend scrolling
    Don't check your phone within 60 mins after waking
  • Don't check your phone 60 mins BEFORE bed
  • Turn off all notifications (I leave on text/calls)
  • Put your phone on DND

Is there a particular app that is a problem for you?

Delete it and force yourself to re-download it every time you want to log in or force yourself use your computer to check the app.

I ran an experiment for one month to see how less screen time would affect me.

Here's what I did:

  • No screens 1 hour before bed (replaced with reading or meditating)
  • No looking at my phone 60 mins after waking
  • Strictly going on IG to post for PER and then log off (no scrolling)
  • Keeping my phone out of reach and HIDDEN (I found if I could see it, I'd think about it)

After cutting my daily screen time in half, here's what I've seen:

  • I go to sleep MUCH faster
  • I had a deep calmness come over me just 3 DAYS IN
  • All my WHOOP sleep metrics have improved (Resting HR, HRV, Resp. rate, sleep score)
  • I've been able to focus on whatever is in front of me
  • The urge to open my phone is WAY down

I still have a long way to go, but holy shit I feel so much better.

It's a little frightening to realize how attached and addicted we are to screens.

One of the BEST things you can do for your mental health is getting disconnected and away from pixels.

This topic exploded on LinkedIn this week, so I know it's a huge pain point for people.

Please let me know what you think and how these go if you try them (or if you did something else that worked great)!

Tim 🖤


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