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How to detox from your smartphone

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

This article was published on Ikea.


Yes, you’re addicted to your phone. We all are! But there are some simple steps you can take to cut back on the hours spent squinting at your screen. This article gives some helpful tips on reducing screen-time at home, at work and on vacation


Here in Sweden, we have a much-loved tradition where nearly half the population packs their bags every June, hustles their kids and the dog into the car and heads deep into the countryside to a sommarhus. Summerhouses are popular throughout the Nordic countries – they’re called hytte in Norway, sumarbústaður in Iceland and kesämökki in Finland. Further east, the Russians can’t live without their dachas.


It’s an opportunity to unwind. It’s about leaving the city behind, both literally and figuratively, and everything that entails: hectic schedules, busy commutes, overcrowded inboxes … and smartphone addiction.


In fact, summerhouse owners in isolated areas have no access to internet or wifi at all, but they love it that way. Having no connection removes the temptation to check your inbox; a habit that can drastically erode many of the benefits you otherwise gain from taking time away from work.


Unplugging from work on vacation


We’re not suggesting you leave your phone at home when you go on vacation. Smartphones are essential for emergencies, and a fantastic travel tool in terms of being able to navigate your way through unfamiliar city streets or booking accommodation with ease.

But there are some basic rules you should consider following if you don’t want to take your job with you on vacation.


  • As a rule of thumb, the better your handover is before you leave, the more likely it is you’ll be able to relax, undisturbed by work concerns on vacation. Don’t rush the handover or neglect getting your workload into good order before you go.

  • Set an autoreply that says you will not be checking emails for the entirety of your holiday. Don’t promise to check emails intermittently – this will mean correspondents will expect an answer.

  • Delegate to someone who can confidently deal with any emergencies while you’re away without needing to call you.

  • Don’t tell your boss or colleagues that they can “contact you any time”. This may seem like a generous thing to do, but you’ll regret making the offer when your phone rings while you’re lying on a beach somewhere. And here’s the thing: they’ll be okay without you.

  • Turn off work email notifications on your phone. Even “badges” – the little white number in a red circle that hovers over your email app icon – can cause your stress-levels to skyrocket as the number climbs into the hundreds.

  • Simply delete the email app on your phone if the temptation to check in with the office is proving too strong. Rest assured, all your emails and data will still be there when you re-install it again when you get back to work.


While disconnecting on vacation is crucial for getting the most out of your time away from work, it’s also a good idea to “detox” from your screen in your everyday life. Here are a few tips for doing so.


Smartphone detoxing in day-to-day life


Parents just about everywhere are deeply concerned about their children’s smartphone addiction, but fail to see the hypocrisy: us adults are addicted too. People reach for their phones every time they have a spare second – while they’re brushing their teeth, waiting at a red light or standing in line at a café. But it doesn’t need to be this way.


If you are worried that you might be too reliant on your phone, why not consider:


1. Cutting down on social media


We know, we know! It’s hard, but social media is, after all, the number one cause of phone addiction. If you can get this under control, then you’ll definitely be on your way to a healthier relationship with your phone. Try the following:


  • Restrict usage to certain periods every day rather than browsing during every spare minute.

  • Consider cutting down the number of platforms you use. Do you really need Facebook, Insta, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat and TikTok?

  • Turn off your notifications.


2. Keeping the phone out of the bedroom


This means:


  • Putting the phone down for the night well before you go to bed. Plug it in to charge in a separate room.

  • Not using your phone as your alarm, because the first thing you’ll do after swiping the alarm off will be to start browsing. Why not buy a cool retro alarm clock instead, like IKEA’s DEKAD clocks?

  • Not checking your phone first thing when you wake up (it’s in the other room anyway, right?). Rather than reaching straight for the phone, why not carry out your morning routine first (shower, breakfast, getting dressed for work), then check your phone.


3. Creating a list of “analogue” activities to do instead


As an experiment, try tracking the time you spend on your phone for a day (there are apps for this). You might receive a nasty shock as those stolen “glances” at your phone add up to hours over the course of a day. What if you devoted this time – whether it’s one hour or five – to meaningful activities, such as:


  • Spending more time with friends and family

  • Reading a book

  • Going to the gym

  • Going for a walk (and leave the phone at home)

  • Taking up a new hobby.


4. Focusing on the task at hand


A UK study found that employees spend two hours per day on social media and other distractions at work. You’ve got to admit, this is a whole lot of lost productivity. Smartphones are a procrastinator’s favourite tool, and can often mean that a worker never reaches the proper level of deep focus required to really concentrate on a task.

While office workers are more likely to check their phones than shop-floor or warehouse employees due to the environment they’re in, everyone can benefit from the following tips to reducing phone browsing during work hours:

  • Keep your phone somewhere where it isn’t instantly accessible.

  • Put your phone on silent mode.

  • Turn on flight mode when you need to concentrate.

  • Turn off notifications.

  • Don’t take your phone into meetings.


Time to log off


Like any sort of detox program, weaning yourself off your phone will be difficult for the first few days. You might be the sort of person who can go cold turkey, but if not, you might benefit from a structured withdrawal where you spend a little less time looking at your smartphone screen every day. If you really do have issues with self-control, there are apps that can help you by blocking apps on your phone for a set period.


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