Sure, smartphones are great. They connect us with our friends, give us driving directions, and – for those of us doing the online dating thing – they might just introduce us to our soul mates.
But our phones can also be the greatest distraction in our lives. It’s easy to while away a good portion of our free time (not to mention our work and study hours) scrolling through photos, opening clickbait, and watching cat videos.
Here at 16Personalities, we love cat videos. We also believe in the power of taking breaks and allowing for mental downtime. That said, we want to help our readers lead more fulfilling lives – and this doesn’t necessarily entail spending more time down the rabbit hole of social media or giving yourself text neck.
In that spirit, here are our best tips for getting off your phone and doing something.
Would you find it very difficult to spend a day without the Internet? In our research, Analysts are the most likely personalities to say yes.
Why might this be the case? Well, as any Analyst could tell you, smartphones are effective. Unlike the immediacy of phone calls or in-person encounters, these devices allow us to take our time when choosing the words we communicate with, and Analysts appreciate the control and efficiency this provides. Moreover, Analysts are also the most likely personalities to enjoy hobbies that their friends don’t share. As a result, online communities can be their lifeline when it comes to finding people with similar interests.
“So,” Analysts might ask, “is there a problem with spending time online every day?” Not necessarily. But for those of you who feel restless and dissatisfied about your smartphone use, here’s an experiment you can try to spend your time more effectively:
- Step 1: Collect data. Install an app to track your on-screen behavior. Plenty of apps out there can tell you exactly how many minutes (or hours) you spend on each app or website. After a week (or if you’re really eager, a day), check your data. Note which apps or websites command the majority of your attention. Consider deleting apps or scheduling blockers to cut back on apps or websites that take too much of your time and attention.
- Step 2: Choose a mission. Think of one thing you’d rather do right now than spend time on your phone. Seriously – just one. If the Internet went down for half an hour, what would you do? If you’re stuck choosing between something fun and something practical, go with the one that’s fun.
- Step 3: Take action. Set a timer for 30 minutes and do it. Stuff your phone in the back of your sock drawer or under a couch cushion if you need to. It may feel difficult, but think about this rationally: you’ve done harder things in your life than stay off your phone for half an hour, haven’t you?
- Step 4: Compare results. Repeat this process for the next three days. For these iterations, rate your mood on a scale from 1 to 10 before and after the experiment, with 1 meaning “miserable” and 10 meaning “elated.” At the end of day three, compare your results.
Diplomat personality types believe in the beauty of connecting deeply with others. As a result, you might not expect them to spend much time in the land of one-click likes – but you’d be mistaken. In our research, Diplomats were second only to Analysts in admitting that they’d struggle to go a day without Internet access.
Maybe it’s because these personalities associate their phones with staying connected to the people they love, or maybe it’s because their Intuitive curiosity has them turning to search engines on a regular basis. Either way, Diplomats can be just as attached to their smartphones as anyone else.
This isn’t a bad thing – unless it keeps them from going after their dreams. Many Diplomats have big ambitions for the future, whether that’s writing a novel or launching a nonprofit. And, alas, these long-term goals aren’t compatible with endless scrolling.
If you’re a Diplomat, here’s how you can break the habit of reaching for your phone when you really want to be chasing your dreams:
- Step 1: Start small. It’s tempting to think in terms of all or nothing: “That’s it, I’m not going back online until I write a Grammy-worthy song!” With expectations that high, chances are you’ll end up disappointed – and, to distract yourself from feeling disappointed, you might just end up back in the warm glow of your smartphone. Instead, start by choosing one reasonable, bite-size goal for your phone-free time. For example, try putting your phone in airplane mode during your commute or at mealtime.
- Step 2: Break with routine. Identify one new-to-you place, one class you’ve never tried, or one new hobby – and explore it without using your phone. If you’re in the habit of checking your phone throughout the day, these fresh experiences can help you build the habit of doing things without going online.
- Step 3: Create boundaries. Yes, structure can be a drag, but even Diplomats crave it at times. Tomorrow, when you wake up, set a timer for half an hour. (If first thing in the morning doesn’t work for you, try this during a meal.) Don’t touch your phone again until the timer goes off. Notice how you feel at the end of that time. Do you feel more grounded or centered than usual? Maybe even more energized and loving?
Sentinels walk through the world with a sense of responsibility. These personalities hate to leave a message unanswered, and they may leap up every time their phone dings – even if they were hoping to have a minute to themselves. In fact, Sentinels are the least likely Role to leave their phones on silent or vibrate.
Because these personality types have plenty of willpower and self-discipline, it might seem unlikely that they’d waste time on the Internet. And many Sentinels would agree, saying that they try to use the web only when it’s productive to do so.
But here’s the issue: wasted time doesn’t always look like wasted time. For example, Sentinels may be tempted to check email outside of working hours even if it doesn’t really make a difference. Or they might scour the web for a good deal, searching for hours to find a price that’s ever-so-slightly lower than the others.
If you’re a Sentinel, you might think of this behavior as productive, but in truth, it can sap time and energy that might be better devoted to other pursuits. Here are some ideas for breaking out of the compulsive-checking loop:
- Step 1: Take accountability. Tell your friends and loved ones that you’d like to spend less time on your phone. Ask them to support you in specific ways – for example, by reminding you to put your phone in airplane mode when you set your alarm at night.
- Step 2: Make a plan. Sentinels are the most likely Role to share their hobbies with friends. So, take advantage of this and schedule a phone-free outing with a friend or friends with similar interests. This could be a night at the bowling alley or a theater matinee – whatever suits your passions.
- Step 3: Practice self-care. Compared with other Roles, Sentinels are the least likely to take time for themselves when busy. Whenever it seems impossible to set aside a few minutes for yourself, consider turning off your phone and putting it in a drawer. Then, set a kitchen timer (even if only for five minutes) and do something that feels good to you – whether that’s reading a book or simply lighting a candle and taking a few deep breaths.
Explorers are all about living in the moment – and, let’s face it, staring at a five-inch screen is hardly conducive to getting the most out of life.
Smartphones can be habit-forming even for these action-oriented personality types. The Internet offers an endless parade of novelty, from news stories and travel photos to gear reviews and how-to videos. And let’s not get started on special-interest blogs and social media.
For Explorers, all of this can be nothing short of mesmerizing. Aspiring rock climbers can watch footage of world-class climbers, bookmark maps for local climbs, and discover the best shoes and harnesses. And jet-setters can create lists of cool places to visit, find high-end travel accessories, and check out photos of street style in cities around the world.
But what if these Explorers get so immersed in their online discoveries that the real-life adventures get put on hold? If you’re an Explorer with a smartphone habit, here are some ways to break free:
- Step 1: Move it, move it. Explorers are the most likely personalities to enjoy active hobbies. So, schedule time to do your favorite physical activity, whether that’s hiking or handball – or, better yet, do it now. The only rule? You guessed it: keep your phone in your pocket.
- Step 2: Teach a friend. Explorers love to introduce their friends to their interests. Pick an activity you enjoy and set up a time to teach a friend how to do it. When you’re demonstrating paddling technique in kayaks or slinging arrows at the archery range, chances are you won’t be reaching for your phone.
- Step 3: Treat yourself. Sometimes we need incentives to make changes in our lives. Try making a deal with yourself: if you manage to take more time for your hobbies (rather than surfing the web), treat yourself to an outing or a new piece of gear.
Are you scrolling through this article on your phone? If so, don’t feel guilty. Again, there’s nothing wrong with using smartphones. Scrolling, swiping, and double-tapping might even help you wind down at the end of a long day.
But if your phone leaves you feeling worse rather than better, take note. The good news is that you don’t have to flush your devices down the toilet to break their hold on you. For all personality types, there’s a happy middle ground between compulsive scrolling and going off the grid entirely.
The trick to finding this middle ground? One word: boundaries. Set aside time for activities that you enjoy doing – whether that’s capoeira or cosplay or crochet – and defend it from your smartphone’s attempts at encroachment.
And then, after you’ve done the things that fill you up and make life feel interesting, go ahead and scroll to your heart’s content.
What helps you get off your phone and get back to living life? Share what works for your personality type in the comments below!