Kill your phone

Portugese version:

The smartphone is one of the greatest inventions of our time. It provides 24/7/365 access to the Internet, allowing you to connect with people from across the globe, get directions to any place, and access vast entertainment options— all while fitting in the palm of your hand.

Unfortunately, the smartphone can also be a bottomless, endless, inexhaustible distraction tool.

Technology, the fuel that keeps the attention economy going, is addictive by design. In such economy, our attention is the highest form of currency. What better way to harvest our attention than to keep up addicted to our screens? In-app advertising alone cash in about $200 billion. If you can get people to check their phone 58 times daily, well, that’s mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money.

Good news: It is still possible to fight against the attention economy.

Kill your phone.

In Feck Perfuction: Dangerous Ideas on the Business of Life, James Victore writes in Chapter 4, Kill your phone.

Victore’s argument is that in doing so, we create space in our lives for solitude and deep thoughts. When we remove digital distractions, we create the time, energy and space to do the things that we value: spend time with people we love, work on our hobbies, and produce better quality work.

Craft takes concentration, excellence takes time. To be serious about our work, we must be conscious of the time we spend on ourselves versus the time we spend on screens.

James Victore

Over the years, I have experimented with different approaches to keep my smartphone addiction at bay. I find the best approach is to kill your smartphone. Out of sight, out of mind.

We can all benefit from killing our phones to rescue our time and attention, and devote them to more valuable pursuits instead. What it means to kill your phone will differ greatly from individual to individual. It could be as simple as disabling notifications and deleting social media apps from your phone to more radical approaches like switching to a flip phone, or not having a phone at all.

Below are three of my favourite approaches to kill your phone.

1. Downgrade, or remove your data plan.

The Internet is really what makes smartphones very addictive.

Removing data from my phone plan was one of the first approaches I tried to reduce the time I spent on my phone. For two years, I managed to live without data on my phone. I took screenshots of GPS directions, downloaded music, e-books, and podcasts for offline access, and learned to talk to strangers when I lost my way or forgot to download an e-book and got bored.

More recently, I had to be content with 0.5 GB/day data plan. I used it mostly for GPS navigation and iMessage, as I quickly learned streaming requires tons of data. I had to download entertainment for offline access. Downgrading your data plan is a good option if you need data for things like GPS, email, etc., but still want to minimize time spent on your phone to a minimum.

This approach works really well because once you remove or downgrade your data plan, it is harder to impulsively go back to it. There is also the financial incentive— Oh, how I miss my $28 phone bill.

2. Turn your smartphone into a dumb phone.

I often fantasize about switching to a flip-phone, but I’m also very fond of my smartphone. I appreciate having access to an amazing tool that has made life convenient and provides me with tons of information and entertainment.

It has also been a source of distraction, procrastination, and laziness. I have spent countless of hours mindlessly browsing on my phone, wasting time I could have spent doing things that are objectively better.

I had to make a compromise: I turned my iPhone to a dumb phone.

In its dumb state, my phone is almost entirely useless for mindless entertainment. I find myself constantly doing things, even small things I would usually put off because I’m distracted online. I stay longer with the discomfort of doing things, like reading, going to the gym, or doing the dishes. The alternative is no longer getting lost in endless digital entertainment, its nothingness.

Over time, the desperation to turn to digital entertainment to escape boredom has become less and less pestering. My phone is incapable of entertaining me for hours, so I find something else to do instead.

3. Upgrade to a flip phone.

If you have it in you, switching to a flip phone is the biggest upgrade, and biggest flex, in our digitally-caffeinated world.

Until next time,

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3 responses to “Kill your phone”

  1. Mehret what is your opinion on laptop use?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I use the SelfControl app ( to block distracting websites on my laptop, and set it for days and forget about it. The only redeeming thing about laptop use is that it’s not portable so that can be a deterring factor from spending excessive amount of time on it, compared to a phone you can bring with you everywhere.

      You have given me an idea to write about laptop use now that I think about it, thank you!


  2. Yes, it is easier to not be distracted on a laptop as it is a more productive and focused workspace – compared to something built from the ground up to be a distraction and hold your attention. I just realised you hadn’t written about it much.

    That said, starting a new business I sometimes get a pang of guilt after spending 9 hours (even productively) on my laptop because I’m not connected to the real world.

    That said, I guess it strengthens my motivation to do a stellar job within my business for the goal of making more money, being able to work less hours, having more freedom, etc. so I don’t have to spend 9 hours on my laptop for decades!

    Liked by 1 person

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