How to Break a Habit: Remove and Replace.

Like so many of you, reducing time on my personal device is on the top of my list for the New Year. I don’t have anything against my phone; in fact, I do 100% of my business to Accelerate on the go. But when my little sister called me out over Christmas Break while I checked out at a family dinner, I decided it was time to take a look at the research.

The promise of the smartphone: never be alone, never be bored, and pick and choose where you want to engage. Good? Or not so much? Research shows devices are addicting and constantly alter our brain chemistry with little shots of dopamine for every ‘like’ or notification. And we quickly become addicted to those little hits — so much so that it can be hard to pull away. The inability to hold a meaningful conversation, addiction, and depression, are very real and proven outcomes.

If taking some time away from personal devices is on your list, in order to be successful, you need a game plan for what you will do instead. Remove and replace is a tried and true method for changing habits, but without the second piece to the puzzle (the replace), it’s hard to create lasting change. Another technique to help when creating change is visualization. We talk about that a lot at Accelerate, but it comes in handy when you’re trying to break a habit. Imagine the most likely scenarios and swap in the preferred behavior (replace) for the behavior that you want to (remove).

A starter list:

1. Out to dinner. Leave the phone (remove) in the car or turn it off and put it out of sight under the table (just seeing each others’ phones affects our relationships). To prepare yourself for the lull in conversation when you would normally check your phone, come ready with 2-3 questions to ask of others (replace). Need ideas? Try this site of conversation starters:

2. Before Bed. If you try to get to sleep but find yourself mindlessly surfing the internet or checking email, know that screens before bed mess with REM. If you count on your phone as an alarm, buy an alarm. Decide on a “home” for your phone that is outside the bedroom and a non-negotiable “bedtime”. Plug it in and leave it there (remove). Instead, try having a conversation with your partner, reading a book or a magazine or just spending some time without any distractions at all (replace).

**As an added bonus, give your phone a “wake-up” time too. Checking your phone first thing in the morning can give you all sorts of stress.**

3. During a workout. Put your phone on airplane mode (remove). Research shows that in an average one-hour workout, 35% of this time is a complete waste of time. Untangle headphones beforehand, pick your playlist and download it so you don’t have to mess with WiFi for Spotify or Pandora. Consider picking up an armband (replace) so your phone is out of easy reach. Once it goes in, it shouldn’t come out until you are done.

Let us know in the comments if any of this works for you.