Waste sucks. Really. You’ll never see me not finishing a meal. The perspective of not fully enjoying something saddens me. Fortunately, we seem to be shifting towards a less waste-producing world. Still, there’s one thing that people feel content to be wasting, although they will never get it back — their own time.

To start saving time, I wanted to decrease my smartphone usage. Clearly, the geek I am wouldn’t be arguing against the usefulness of tech. But I’ve seen its effects on me and my relatives. Most of the time, it’s not purpose that drives us to use our phones.

I mean, do you like cookies? If not, just imagine I’m talking about something you like. Let’s say you’re going to the kitchen to get some water, but there’s a plate of cookies on the counter. How likely are you to take one?

Environment plays a determining role in our behavior. It is much easier to avoid temptation, than it is to resist it. In this case, the environment was my phone. So I decided to configure it in a way that I would only use it when needed.

As the cookies example highlighted, we do things because they’re in front of us. So I started by removing all apps from my home screen, so that I would be less tempted to use them. Anyway, they would be just a swipe away in the app library.

Does this sound weird? Imagine leaving the whole plate of cookies at your desk where you sit all day. How many times will you go for one? That’s essentially what you’re doing, carefully ordering your favorite apps on your home screen. You’re tempting yourself.

But Daily Active Users was too key a metric for apps developers to let me get away that easily. So they counter-attacked with notifications. And that led me to my second action.

During a week or so, I decided to assess my notifications usefulness. Every time I received one, I would update their settings accordingly. I sorted notifications in two categories. First, you have the notifications that deliver silently. Those would be the first thing I see when I pick up my phone. The others notifications are the ones that made my phone vibrate. Basically, those mean “Notify me regardless of what I’m doing.”

Quickly, I realized the only thing worth disturbing me would be calls — nothing else was urgent. So I started assessing which apps were worth having notifications at all.

I always asked myself the same question — should this be the first thing I see when I pick up my phone?

  • Emails — No.
    Emails can wait (my phone isn’t my work tool). Plus, I check my inbox multiple times a day already, there are very little chances that I miss anything.
  • Messenger — Hell no.
    It’s likely a distraction. If it was urgent, people would have called.
  • Calendar — Yes.
    Reminders sent 15 minutes before events help me organize my time.

After the notification purge, my phone turned out to be very less intrusive. As a result, I ended up using it less. It was a virtuous circle. I divided my daily screen time by 2 or 3, down to roughly 1 hour per day. My smartphone didn’t exactly become distraction-free… but at least now I’m conscious of how I’m spending my time on it!

I write about tech, games, and some unusual things (like this) every day. I post most of it on my Twitter where you can follow me.

If you’re interested in hearing more about this topic, checkout “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix.

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See you tomorrow.