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How to break bad habits

Saira Mueller at Wired:

The first step to breaking a habit is the same as building one—make a list of the behaviors you’d like to stop doing and put them into priority order. If you try to do everything at once, you’ll likely just get overwhelmed and give up, says Alana Mendelsohn, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Columbia’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Even worse, when we’re stressed out or tired, we instinctively revert back to our established habits—making it harder to break the ones you no longer want.


If you’re trying to check your phone less often, David Kadavy, author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, suggests locking it in a lockbox for part of the day. “Make it as hard as possible to actually perform the habit,” he says. While you’re still going to get the cue to check your phone, the effort of going to the lockbox and unlocking it can help block the behavior from triggering. Or, say you’re trying to check social media less often: “Just delete the social media apps from your phone,” says Kadavy. “Block them with the parental controls or, at the very least, don’t have them on your home screen.”

I’m sure you’re just like me. In search of a way to spend less time on your phone. I’m here to confidently say that these techniques do indeed help.

Step 1: setup Screen Time on iOS

ScreenTime on iOS is very effective. There’s really no need to put your phone into a lockbox. However, if you’re trying to kick the nicotine habit, I hear that technique works well.

Step 2: disable notifications (or delete the app outright off your device)

I have found that disabling notifications on troublesome apps is pretty effective. Deleting them off your device is 100x more effective. I deleted Twitter off my phone and while I still have an account, I have found myself in a better place mentally. Instagram still vies for my daily attention. Now that it is essentially a WhatsApp clone, full of direct messages, I can’t stay away. Now it’s just a matter of trying to read my DM’s each day before I go over my allotted Screen Time.

Let’s say you delete all these social apps off your phone. The good news is you can still check your Twitter timeline or Instagram DMs on the web from your computer. When I’m on my laptop I’ve found that I enter into a sort of “GTD mode.” I’m in, and out real quick. Avoid the mobile app timesuck at all costs.

You’ll quickly begin to realize that the mobile apps are all designed to pull you in and keep you on. Once it clicks for you, it’ll become so easier to stay off your phone and fill that time with shit that actually matters like reading, gaming, exercise, learning or whatever floats your boat.