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10 Things To Do Instead of Scrolling Through Your Smartphone

“Don’t become a slave to technology — manage your phone, don’t let it manage you.”

As Richard Branson said, “Don’t become a slave to technology — manage your phone, don’t let it manage you.” Unfortunately, most people are glued to their smartphones. Here are some worrying statistics about smartphone usage:

  • 46% of smartphone users spend between 5–6 hours per day on their smartphone

  • The average adult spends 3 hours and 54 minutes on their mobile devices per day

  • On average, we pick up our smartphones between 150–344 times per day (that’s once every 4 minutes)

  • During the pandemic, daily smartphone usage has nearly doubled among children

Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to spend less time on your smartphone is to have a clear list of productive, healthy, and fulfilling replacement activities. The more you practice these replacement activities, the less time you’ll waste on your smartphone.

Learning New Skills Most people claim they ‘don’t have enough time’ to learn new skills or read more books. This is a lazy excuse. The problem is not lack of time, it’s lack of time management. Each day, hours are being wasted on distractions and low-quality entertainment. As Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle, said, “It is not shortage of time that should worry us, but the tendency for the majority of time to be spent in low-quality ways.” What if each day, you traded 30 minutes of mindless phone scrolling for 30 minutes of learning a new skill? Whether learning high-value skills to make more money, new languages to emerge yourself in different cultures, or party tricks to show off to your friends, there are dozens of skills to learn. Where scrolling through your phone provides a temporary high — the dopamine spike is short-lived — learning a new skill will stick with you for years, if not an entire lifetime.

Watch a Documentary I love documentaries. It’s not just a relaxing form of entertainment, but it’s also educational. A good documentary helps you understand the world a little better, broadens the mind, and inspires you to make some changes in your daily life. Some of the best documentaries I’ve recently watched are:

  • 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible

  • The Social Dilemma

  • Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

  • Fantastic Fungi

Build An Online Income Stream If you’ve ever complained about not earning enough money, but you still waste hours per day scrolling through social media feeds or news apps, put your smartphone away and get to work. Rather than passively consuming content on your smartphone, use your time more productively and start creating content. Start producing valuable stuff. Build a side-hustle. Write on Medium. Create a digital product on Gumroad. Start freelancing. Because of the internet, it has never been easier to start a business or create an extra income stream. Never. Our (grand)parents didn’t have this opportunity. They were forced to work 40+ hours for someone else. There was hardly any other option. But nowadays, all you need to make money is an internet connection and a monetizable skill. So, instead of getting distracted by the internet, use it to your advantage. Use it to make more money.

Read Books Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, said, “The big problem in America is that everyone is spending 2–3 hours a day watching TV. If you spend that same amount of time reading, you’ll be in the top 1% of whatever your field is.” Now, I don’t think many of us have more than two hours available per day to read. But that’s also not necessary. If you read 15 pages per day, you’d finish roughly 27 books per year (as the average non-fiction book is about 200 pages). Although reading 15 pages can be done in just 20–30 minutes per day, Jack Canfield’s quote remains relevant. The big problem is that most people spend this time watching TV or glued to their smartphones. But what if you traded just twenty minutes of mindless scrolling for twenty minutes of purposeful reading? You’d learn more, develop valuable expertise, and broaden your knowledge. Some of my all-time favorite books are:

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Stephen R. Covey

  • The War of Art — Steven Pressfield

  • The Psychology of Money — Morgan Housel

  • A New Earth — Eckart Tolle

Get Organized All that time spent staring at a screen could’ve been spent getting organized. It could’ve been used to clean your home, prepare a few healthy meals for the coming days, or plan out your entire week. If you feel like you’re always ‘behind’ on the day, it might be worth spending fifteen minutes less on your phone and using it to get yourself organized instead. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Getting organized is the metaphorical ‘sharpening of the ax’, which makes each day flow more efficiently.

Do Something Creative Instead of consuming other people’s creative output (aka, their content), why not do something creative yourself? Put the right side of your brain to work and do something creative, such as:

  • Painting

  • Making music

  • Photography

  • Writing

  • DIY projects

  • Building/fixing things

Studies have shown that pursuing creative projects boosts happiness and cognitive functioning, while decreasing stress and anxiety. In addition, creative pursuits tend to induce a flow state, which is a powerful state of mind to be in. This is a stark contrast to the effects smartphones tend to have. Studies have shown heavy smartphone usage correlates with increased stress, depression, and anxiety.

Go For a Walk (In Nature) Research has shown that most people spend about 90% of their time indoors. No wonder this generation is called the ‘Indoor Generation.’ Because we spend so much time indoors, we lack fundamental health factors such as an active lifestyle, fresh air, and vitamin D3 (generated through direct sunlight exposure). This leads to all kinds of mental and physical health problems. So, put your smartphone away and go outside more. Go for long walks — preferably in nature. And if you live in a city, go on long walks (or bike rides, as we do here in Amsterdam) to explore your city on foot. Whatever you do, get moving. Get outside. You’re not made to stare at screens your whole life.

Listen To a Podcast Alright, fair enough, you might need your smartphone to listen to podcasts. But when you use your smartphone to make you smarter, you use it more productively than 95% of people. Some of my favorite podcasts are:

  • The Pomp Podcast (about cryptocurrencies)

  • The Joe Rogan Experience

  • Kwik Brain (by Jim Kwik)

Listening to a podcast can easily be combined with other activities, such as walking outside, cleaning the house, or doing your laundry. It’s a win-win.

Write In a Journal Personally, I find journaling one of the most effective habits for creating mental clarity. Nothing gets your thoughts in order like writing them out on paper. Instead of reading hundreds of opinions, angry comments, and discussions of random strangers on the internet, take some time to look inward. Check which conversation is going on inside yourself instead of on Twitter or TikTok. “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” — Marcus Aurelius Sit down, grab a pen and paper, and give your mind the space to roam free. It will automatically come up with the thoughts, emotions, or ideas that require your attention. Write only for yourself, not for someone else. You want to write without a filter. That’s how you get the most useful thoughts out.

Identify Your Highest-Quality Leisure Activities Make a list of your highest-quality leisure activities. I guarantee, for 95% of people, scrolling through a smartphone won’t make the list. In many cases, it’s a form of low-quality leisure. It doesn’t really make us that happy, the dopamine spike is short-lived, and it usually leaves us feeling more emotionally ‘empty’ than before. High-quality leisure, however, are activities that spark true happiness. They make us come alive and feel truly fulfilled. These activities are different for everyone, as we all have unique interests. Some of my favorite high-quality leisure activities are:

  • Going on long walks in nature (especially the mountains)

  • Playing video games with friends

  • Watching a great movie/documentary with my girlfriend

  • Lifting heavy weights at the gym

  • Learning about complex topics (such as the blockchain and the universe)

These activities spark true happiness in me. They leave me feeling far more fulfilled and mentally ‘rich’ than hours of scrolling through social media, for example. All in all, make a list of your highest-quality leisure activities and refer to this list whenever you find yourself spending too much time on your phone.

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