A couple of years ago, I read a book called Digital Minimalism by Cal
It opened my eyes to the dangers of technology and especially social
media, so I started experimenting with different ways to reduce my
consumption of almost all “non-essential” apps on my phone.
Some worked, some didn’t, but overall I learned a lot about breaking
my bad habit.
If you’re struggling like I was, here are four things you can try.
1. Delete the apps
I first tried deleting most of the apps on my phone.
I went through and removed anything that wasn’t a tool or source of
information. I kept things like my banking app, to-do list app, etc. But I
removed YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, and many more.
I allowed myself to access these sites through their websites, but it still
reduced my usage for a couple of reasons:
1. The apps weren’t on my phone to remind me that they existed
every time I unlocked my phone. I would have to make a
conscious effort to view them by going into my browser and
typing in the address.
2. The website versions of things like Instagram and YouTube are
significantly harder to use compared to their app counterparts.
This reduced my usage because it was always frustrating to use
Overall, this method worked well to reduce how much time I spent on
my phone, but it didn’t cut it down enough. I wasn’t totally satisfied, so
I tried another method.
2. Only use your apps on your computer
The second method I tried was only using entertainment websites on
my computer and never my phone.
I logged out of all my accounts on my phone and started to
exclusively use my computer for things like browsing Facebook and
watching YouTube videos.
This method worked because it allowed me to go entire days without
looking at my social media accounts. I don’t work at my personal
computer most days, so my access to my accounts was limited.
Similar to the app deletion method, this method worked well because
it meant I didn’t “accidentally” find myself on Reddit or YouTube
whenever I was bored.
I would have to sit down, log in to my computer, and then navigate to
the websites. The biggest downfall of this method was my personal
lack of self-control. Whenever I was particularly bored and away from
my computer, I would sometimes just log in to my accounts on my
This messed up the whole system for me, and I had to start looking for
3. Set app limits
Another simple trick I tried to reduce my phone usage was setting
time limits on my apps.
I grouped all of my “time-wasting” apps together and set a limit of 30
minutes a day through Apple’s Screen Time feature.
This almost never worked for me.
Screen Time has a feature that allows you to ask for 15 more minutes
after your time is up. I would constantly hit that button throughout the
day and basically never changed my phone usage habit at all.
This method is not completely useless if you have more self-control or
if you can get the help of someone else.
That’s what I tried next.
4. Remove access to your accounts
The most powerful and most effective way I reduced my phone usage
is by locking myself out of all my accounts.
I did this by asking a friend to go into my Instagram and Facebook
accounts and change their passwords so that I didn’t know how to
get into my accounts. This is the cold turkey way to break your digital
I immediately went a month without looking at Instagram or
It’s so much more powerful than doing it yourself because of its social
aspect. I didn’t want to ask my friend for my passwords because it
would feel like I was giving up or failing.
Failing in front of my peers is a very powerful motivator for me, and it
allowed me to go much longer without social media than I ever had
when I was trying the other methods.
It’s also much more customizable.
For instance, you can give your phone to a friend or family member
and tell them to give it back once you finish the paper you were
working on. This is also how you could fix my self-control issue with
the Screen Time feature. If I don’t know the Screen Time password, I
can’t ask for 15 more minutes.
This method was the most powerful and one of the least painful I
tried. I would highly recommend it to someone looking to curb their
The big idea that kept popping up throughout all of these
experiments is that the harder something is to do, the less we do it.
My phone is always with me, so it is easy for me to look at it.
The apps on my phone are instantly available and easy to use, so I
The methods I tried all added barriers between me and my phone.
Some added small barriers, like deleting the apps, and others added
giant barriers, like being unable to access my accounts. I would
encourage you to take this big idea and apply it to experiments of
Everyone is different, and while the methods I mentioned worked with
varying degrees of success for me, you’ll have to experiment with
them for yourself to see which ones will help you curb your digital