The best positive constraints are easily explicable and as simple to follow. Before bed, I put my phone on airplane mode and hide it away in a drawer. Then I don’t touch it until after noon the next day. (Unless there is some pressing human need; but that’s only happened twice in the last three weeks.)
I feel like I’ve been calmer and more productive without the anxious ‘busyness’ that phones promote, the flicking around, the checking of messages, the fire-fighting of email. As Tim Ferriss puts it: don’t start the day in reactive mode. I can start the day on my terms: with a pot of tea and my diary, or a slow run and some press ups, or straight into an important deadline.
It makes me sound like one of those nauseating ‘My Day’ arseholes from the Weekend pages of the newspaper, but it works.
At the same time, I installed a phone use monitoring app called Space (it’s for Android, but similar exist for iPhones). Space suggested that I spend less than 100 minutes on my phone, and unlock it less than 30 times per day. It turns out this is actually still loads, but just setting a target encourages me to be more thoughtful about how and when I get my phone out.
The average smartphone owner uses their device for 145 minutes per day, over 76 sessions. But, for a modern twist on the old memento mori: On your deathbed, will you wish you’d spent more time on your phone?