This productivity ritual will change how you think about your smartphone

by | Jan 23, 2014 | Technology

Takeaway: To become more motivated, focused, and productive throughout the day, put your phone into airplane mode between 8pm and 8am.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 56s.

A pile of smartphone

I’m pretty sure I’ve come up with the best, most badass smartphone ritual ever.

You ready for it? Here it is:

Put your smartphone into airplane mode from 8pm to 8am.

That might sound like crazy-talk on the surface, but I’ve been turning on airplane mode on my smartphone for 12 hours every day, from 8pm to 8am, for the last couple of weeks, and so far I’ve had incredible results. You might need to adjust the ritual to fit your schedule, but I think 12 hours is the perfect amount of time to shut your phone off for every day. In my case, it’s 1.5 hours before I go to sleep (9:30 pm), and 2.5 hours after I wake up (5:30 am).

The ritual is very simple in theory, but many people have a lot of mental resistance to it, because 12 hours feels like a long time to go without feeling connected (even though you’ll be asleep for 2/3 of it). For that reason I’m going to jump right into ‘sales mode’, and try to sell you on all of the benefits I’ve experienced from this ritual.

Nighttime benefits

  • The ritual reduces your exposure to melatonin-blocking blue light so close to bed, helping you fall asleep faster, and sleep better. (I’m working on an article on melatonin and blue light for next week, stay tuned!)
  • Shutting off your smartphone calms down your mind before bed, letting your mind settle down instead of being caught in a vortex of activity right up until you have to go to sleep.
  • It forces you to tackle higher-leverage activities before bed, like reading and journaling. I recently (as an experiment) used my smartphone for an hour a day for three months, and one of my biggest findings from that experiment is how low-leverage most of the stuff you do on your smartphone is. Shutting your phone off an hour or two before bed helps you focus on bigger and better things.
  • Shutting off your phone helps you slow down and be more mindful before bed, which will make you happier, and make your life more meaningful.
  • You’ll sleep better, because you won’t feel compelled to check your phone in the middle of the night for new notifications and messages.
Another killer phone habit: When you’re having a coffee or eating a meal with someone, shut your phone completely off. Just do it.

Morning benefits

  • Not having a smartphone will get you out of bed faster, since you won’t have any distractions to lay in bed with. And if you’re anxious to connect first thing in the morning, you’ll practically jump out of bed to get to your computer.
  • The ritual forces you to deal with your notifications later in the day, when you have enough energy and motivation to actually do something about them (after you’ve completely woken up).
  • If you have a morning meditation ritual (like I do), your meditations will be much more productive when you don’t have 1,000 things flying around in your head.
  • Just like at night, shutting your phone off will force you to focus on higher-level things in the morning. For example, I plan out my entire day at the gym in the morning, without any distractions to compromise my focus.

Putting your phone on airplane mode (or better yet, shutting it off completely, though you may use your phone as a music player and alarm clock like I do) will make you more mindful, calm, focused, and productive. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be antsy for a week or so while your mind adjusts to being disconnected in the mornings and evenings, but trust me: the benefits are well worth the effort.

Smartphone image courtesy of Jon Fingas.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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