Top 5 Ways to Limit Smartphone Distraction

And Why These Simple Changes Work

“Apple says that iPhone users unlock their phones 80 times a day. Even worse, research firm Dscout found that we tap, type and swipe our smartphones more than 2,600 times a day, on average.” — Jeff Stible, Author of Breakpoint and Wired for Thought

With the invention of the smartphone we have entered into a new era of distraction. We don’t leave home without our smartphones. And anxiety builds when we don’t have it with us.

Yet, when we need to get something done or actually need to use these marvelous devices something else happens.

We get distracted.

Our attention wanders out of whatever we needed to do and into a rabbit hole of Instagram, YouTube, and slideshow articles.

Or we get a notification that someone liked this, or your sister texted you, or an email telling you about deals at Hobby Lobby.

And then, we end up distracted and we have lost minutes which can turn into hours that we could have been doing something important.

The shame and annoyance of our distraction only makes the problem worse.

So, what do we do? How do we limit our distraction with the marvel of modern technology?

Start with Why You Get Distracted

Turns out the reason we are addicted to our smartphones is because of a proximity habit. And this addiction due to proximity is also encouraged by our phones through notifications.

Proximity Habit

Let’s think about this for a moment. Most of us keep our phones on our nightstand because they are now our clock/radio/alarm.

When we wake up, we take our phone everywhere we go. It travels with us in the car, the bathroom, meetings, lunches, and sits in the counter (if not in your pocket) at home.

Since we have it with us, we use it for everything. Not just phone calls. Task lists, calendars, email, games, TV shows, movies, writing, etc.

These major technology companies know that if our smartphones are useful, we will use them. So, they add as much as possible to them so we never put them down.

Until, we try to take a little break from our phones.


Chances are you might be reading this on your phone. And while reading this, you received a text, email, or social media notification.

This is how we get distracted once we have been sucked into our phones…


They are constantly reminding us that we are missing out on what some famous celebrity had for lunch. Or the amount of ‘likes’ our Instagram post got.

When we set our phone down it calls to us.

And we answer it. People are picking up their iPhones almost 80 times a day. In the 16 hours we should be awake that is five times an hour.

All this time we spend on our phone is a productivity killer and it is keeping us from the things we love and the people we love.

This addiction and distraction problem can be easily cured though.

5 Ways to Limit Your Smartphone Use

What I have come to realize is that removing smartphone use is silly. Sure we can downgrade and all that, but we use our phones to talk to people and text.

So removing it isn’t likely going to happen.

What I have found is how to limit or reduce the time I spend on my phone. And I have done it with some really easy steps.

No.1 — Turn Off Notifications

I have turned off all notifications except for my phone, text messages, alarms, and reminders. Two ways people contact me and two things I control.

All other notifications are unnecessary.

Ultimately, you will check your social media and email. And you probably won’t lose any time if you check it an hour from now instead of every time you get a notification.

The only notifications you need are the ones controlled by you and when someone is trying to get ahold of you directly.

Step #1 — Turn off all of Your Notifications

No.2 — Empty Your Home Screen

Remove all the apps and folders on your home screen so it is completely blank accept for the wallpaper.

You don’t need to see the apps to use them.

Every phone known to man has a search function. You don’t need to look through every page of your home screen to find apps only to be distracted by Instagram or Facebook.

***Now, some people will tell you to put all your apps in the same folder, but I’m not convinced this is necessary. Simply removing them from the first screen you see when you unlock your phone works well enough.***

When the home screen is blank, there is less opportunity for you to use an app you arent intending to use.

Step #2 — Remove your apps from your home screen.

No.3 — Use Search for Everything

With.m notifications off, and your apps removed from your home screen, you can now focus on getting what you want when you want it.

Search helps you focus on what you need.

I have found this incredibly helpful to reduce the smartphone, social media rabbit holes I go down.

Which keeps you on task and provides your the ability to set your phone down when you are done.

Step #3 — Begin to use search for everything on your phone.

No.4 — Delete the Fluff

I have a tendency to hoard apps. I will download something, use it once, and forget about it because it wasn’t what I wanted. I also will download something I need once and keep it forever.

The problem is, these apps clutter our phones and keep us distracted by the sheer volume of options.

Deleting unnecessary apps removes further distraction.

These apps can range from single use apps to once a month apps. They can be for some kind of business need or simply for entertainment. Whatever the reason and extent, if you do t use it everyday, DELETE IT!

Once it is gone, you will be able to see the changes in your navigation of your phone (if you still aren’t using search…) and it will save space for more important things.

Step #4 — Delete unused or rarely used apps.

No.5 — Create Designated Phone Stations

Lastly, the best thing you can do to use your phone less is leave it somewhere so it isn’t with you ALL of the time. I have three phone stations in my house.

They are by the charger in our kitchen, my nightstand, and my desk in our den. At work, my phone goes on the charging dock on my desk and I don’t carry it around with me.

Phone stations reduce our constant proximity habit.

When we only have our phones in certain locations, it frees us up to be focused in on what we are doing elsewhere and gives us freedom from needing to have our phones with us all the time.

Once we become more comfortable having it with us less, we will start to find more power over our phone instead of it having power over us.

Step #5 — Choose phone stations at work and at home and leave your phone there for one hour.

Bonus: The iPhone Widget Screen

Now, I’m not familiar with other types of smartphones, however Apple has a widget screen where you can quick view lots of information.

I use this screen for the quick hit info I need at any given time. The only things you will find there are

  • Weather information
  • Quick entry Evernote
  • Activity tracker
  • Music play section

Everything else has been removed. These are the things I quick hit most of the time.

Weather because we need it where we live. Evernote to capture ideas. Activity tracker to make sure I’m moving. And music for easy access to start playlists.

These are my curated quick hitters for easy use on my iPhone.

Bonus Step — Curate your Widget Screen


We must understand that in our day and age there is no way to completely remove smartphone use from our lives.

However, we can and should learn to control our interactions with these devices.

And when we can learn to limit our time spent on them we can experience life and relationships around us more fully.

When we take practical steps we limit our distraction and dependence on non-essential functions our smartphones provide.

Take steps today and begin to experience a freedom and control that our generation and culture is lacking.

What are some ways you limit your smartphone use? Share in the responses below.

Jack Heimbigner is an author, creator, and coach. He lives in the country in Eastern Washington State with his wife, two daughters, and a fierce farm dog. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And don’t forget, he is a champion woodchopper and amateur beer brewer.

Learn more about what it takes to succeed in life and achieve your dreams with his Live the Dream Master Course. It shares more on life planning, goal setting, and seeing your dreams come true.

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