Controlling phone use

What tricks, apps, Beeminder goals, etc, do you personally use to control the amount of time you spend staring at your phone?

In the past I had a phone-away goal that was defined as the number of hours my phone was charging in the evening until midnight. It had mixed results. I could keep using my phone even when it was plugged in, and I wasn’t sure I liked keeping it plugged in all night, every night, as I understand that can be hard on some batteries.


Rescuetime on Android. It works amazingly, and I have custom groups for Twitter, phone time in general, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram…

It pings me every fifteen minutes, to knock me out of zoning out.

And then I IFTTT those Beeminder goals which are in minutes to “days” goals, so I have to spend multiple days a week with no social networking.

This working so well is part of why I can’t switch to iOS right now :frowning:


iOS user here. Let me suggest another angle of attack here: Maybe track not the detailed phone usage but consider when you use your phone in a way you’d like to avoid.

E.g. when you’re on the pot and have your phone with you to make time pass. Which then turns your bathroom breaks into 30 minute YouTube bingeing sessions.
Then reduce that what leads to this: In this case going to the… Hm… No, maybe not. :man_shrugging:

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social media related

  • no social media apps installed (only use the respective sites)
  • logging out of accounts just to have a bit more hassle when trying to access again

general mobile use


As well as removing youtube, reddit, etc. type apps from my phone, I’ve got firefox as my browser with ‘My Filters’ set to also block ycombinator, reddit, youtube, etc. to prevent myself from getting sucked in that way.

I occasionally need youtube, in which case I install the app, use it, then uninstall it again. This seems to be enough friction to prevent me from using it to waste time. If it wasn’t enough, I might try parental controls in the app store as well.

I also try to leave my phone upstrairs out of sight when I am at home, so I don’t just pick it up out of habit.

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I make myself manually enter a datapoint to a “refreshes” do-less whenever I refresh Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or Feedly. Of course, that doesn’t enforce the amount of time I spend reading through a feed (I’m a completist and really like to read everything), but it reduces the endless churn of refreshing to see if there’s new content. The only downside is that sometimes I’m so busy I barely ever refresh, and then I rack up a lot of points to spend whenever I get downtime, so I binge a little more than I’d like. I could retroratchet, but building up the big allowance of points helps me feel productive, so I don’t want to just flush them either.

  1. Keep yourself on a schedule.
  2. Turn off as many push notifications as possible.
  3. Take distracting apps off your home screen.
  4. Kick your device out of bed.
  5. If you have a smart speaker, put it to use.
  6. Try turning on your phone’s grayscale.
  7. Stay accountable.

These things can defnitely help.