Smartphone Detox

A friend, Christopher, just wrote about the power of constraints and focus on his blog a couple of days ago. And I guess I have to nod in agreement, since I actually made a conscious attempt to reduce the distractions in my life the past week.

What best than to start with the biggest distraction in our life: The Smart Phone

Don’t get me wrong. There are great advantages to a smartphone or heck, even a phone.

Back when I was in primary school, whenever it was raining, I had to find a payphone and pay 10 cents to reach my Mum and ask her to bring an umbrella to fetch me.

Not this bad, really…

Pretty inconvenient, huh? (oops…and I probably revealed my age there)

And with a smartphone, we have in our hands a supercomputer. An encyclopedia readily accessible with a touch of our thumb. No getting lost in a new estate, email on-the-go and constant multi-player gaming.

But just like most tools, when brought to extremes, the costs outweigh the benefits.

My Experience

Two weeks ago, I actually downloaded this app called “Breakfree” on to my phone to track my usage. (Yeah, I love to track stuff, not just expenses.)

And boy was I shocked to find out that in a typical day, the number of screen unlocks I made easily surpass 100!

I always assumed I was a light user since I wasn’t even on Instagram or Twitter. However, the time spent on Whatsapp, Facebook and reading blogs added up and it’s somewhat crazy to me that I actually spent so many hours on the phone.

Unless the phone was placed quite far away from me (i.e. charging), checking for Whatsapp messages, FB updates or new blog posts became a reflex move. Yeah, a bad ingrained habit.

I realised I had become part of the “zombie train riders” who will always whip out their smartphones to entertain themselves during their commute. And to think I was chiding them.

What I Did To Break Free

It’s painful to admit, but I think I was rather addicted to my phone.

Perhaps the addiction wasn’t as bad as many others but I still felt it distracted me from more important priorities. I.e. planning my lessons, reading books and recommending them to my students, or exercising.

And I ain’t a guy who thrives on multi-tasking or being bombarded with lots of stimulation.

Downloading the tracker was a start and after acknowledging the problem, I decided I would only check in on my phone every two hours (8am, 10am,12 pm and so on) and spend at most 10 minutes on it each time.

To limit my usage of the phone at home, I made it less accessible.

I place it far away from me when I am doing work on the computer or performing some household chores. And when I am out, instead of putting the phone in my pants, I put it in the bag.

You might argue that I might miss an urgent call or message this way. But seriously, how often do you get an urgent and important message? 99.99% of the time, nothing is life-and-death and almost any task can and maybe should wait for 2 hours.

At night, before I sleep, I make sure it’s a book beside my bed instead of the phone. Doing that has also ensured better sleep for the past week.

And yes, since this is a personal finance blog, money saved since I consume less data. 

More time for priorities, better focus, and a more restful sleep. What’s there not to like about reducing our phone usage?

Afterall, life happens when you are not on your phone. 

Do you have an issue with smartphone usage too? Would be interesting to hear from you!


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11 thoughts on “Smartphone Detox

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi MSR,

      Everyone is either playing games, using Instagram or FB or chatting on whatsapp. Scary.

  1. B

    Interesting concept there.

    I guess it isnt necessarily so bad using those phones. Its what kind or value do you get from the phone that matters at the end of the day.

    Those time used to read news and important events are equally as attrractive and important as it is reading a book.

    But yeah with all combined into one convenience, a lot of unproductive can come in too.

    1. Frugal Daddy

      I think what Mr 15Hrww is doing is limiting and maximising effectiveness of the smartphone, not eliminating. Great. Hope you are enjoying the moment of living more in real world

    2. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi B,

      What you mentioned is true. I guess I will have to move from one end of the pendulum to another end before I find a nice equilibrium.

      But at least for now, less is more with regards to smartphone usage.

      However, I am definitely getting value when I spend time on the smartphone reading your blog post.=p

  2. owq

    Well, it is very annoying when going out with your friends and they are just pressing their phones 75% of the time. It’s like, “hey I’m here, look at me!”. Or when you’re trying to avoid zombies looking at their phones while walking. And the thing is, they probably don’t even realise it.

    Even though data plans have gotten cheaper, I’m still adamant about not relying on any data. I have full access to the Internet at home and work anyway. Using a supplementary plan that costs about $8 per month. Probably could save more by using pre-paid but it’s a pain to change without number porting.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi owq,

      Wow! I think there are not that many individuals in Singapore that don’t use a data plan. Kudos!

      I guess for now, my first priority is make sure I don’t exceed 4GB so that I can cut away the additional $5.90 I pay every month to obtain an additional 3GB of data.

  3. Kevin

    I’m still on 3gb per month, so that’s roughly 100mb per day. I use my phone to set warning and limit for daily use as a reminder to curb usage. As long as we reduce media consumption e.g. Video and music usually it’s fine 🙂 switch to Wifi where possible!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Kevin,

      The warning and limit for daily use is a great idea! I will probably adopt it.

      I guess we shouldn’t abuse wifi too. There’s probably more to life than just using our phones? LOL

  4. Kevin P

    …and I just up-sized my data plan a few days ago before reading your blog post :s.

    Need to make a conscientious effort to unchain myself from this addiction! Ur an inspiration as always 🙂

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Kevin P,

      I personally also up-sized it when I recontracted a few months ago. I guess the additional $5.90 acts more like an insurance. Otherwise, it’s really very costly when one breaches the data cap.

      An inspiration? Thanks! I am also struggling and I feel that I am also just helping myself when I write.