Cheat your way to a smartphone-free life

Excerpt from an infographic from Huffington Post Click on image to see the whole infographic

Excerpt from an infographic from Huffington Post

I received the following e-mail from Rodrigo who read my post on The Change Blog on why I ditched my smartphone:

Hello Laura. I’ve just read about your experience with ditching your smartphone and I confess I’ve been struggling with if for a couple years since I started reading about mindfulness and minimalism. I’d like to ask if you’re still running smartphone-free and how is life going that way. What about the downsides you occasionally went from? Any more suggestion you could make for me to try it harder next time? Thanks!

The answer I wrote ended up being super long, and we both agreed it read somewhat like a blog post. So I’m going to share it here (with minor edits) so it can be helpful to others who are also feeling addicted to their smartphone and dare to want to ditch it.

Cheat to succeed

I’m still happily smartphone free, however I have to admit to a few cheats:

1. I work at home, which means that my computer is always on.

I do, however, make a conscious effort to not waste all day on it. My strategy for productivity is to establish positive habits that support what you want to achieve.

One example of this is that I always make sure I have a purpose before sitting down at the computer. I never just sit down without knowing exactly what I want to do and achieve from that “session”.

This is especially important every time I check Facebook or my e-mail. I try to never check my e-mail if I’m don’t have the time to answer e-mails as well. That just leads to a lot of starred messages I say I’ll respond to that never get taken care of.

2. I have a tablet (a Nexus 7), which allows me to have a “computer”/”smartphone” with me at all times.

I like the tablet better than a smartphone because I don’t have an internet connection (so I can get some quality work done without interruptions on my train ride) but I can always choose to walk into a Starbucks and take advantage of the wonders of wi-fi.

At home, I use the tablet for notifications (I run two businesses and have a lot of email and app accounts that I don’t want to constantly have to check on my computer. Push notifications on my tablet are a Godsend!)

3. To stop checking your smartphone/tablet so often, set a complicated password

Take it one step further and make your password something that can actually help you grow as well. I recently read this story by Mauricio Estrella and was so inspired that I applied it myself.

For example, last month I wanted to get into the habit of meditating every day so I set my password to “meditatedaily”.That was a total pain to enter every 5 minutes so it made me check my emails and notifications a lot less frequently.

Ok, so I checked my tablet less often, but did the password actually work? To some extent, yes. I did not meditate daily but every few days – which is still a HUGE improvement over “pretty much never” which was my past state of affairs regarding meditation. Score!

4. Not having a portable GPS is actually great!

I’ve become a better navigator, am better prepared before I leave, and have had some meaningful interactions with strangers when I asked for directions.

On one hand people love it because, well, who the hell asks for directions nowadays anyway? On the other hand, some people look at me like I came straight from 1999 with my flip phone. That’s always a funny sight.

How to stick to it

1. Prepare for the downsides

On one hand, not having Google or my smartphone around makes it hard to take notes (the tablet isn’t quite as easy to pull out.) So I make sure to always carry a little notepad with me. That way I can jot down ideas no matter where I am, including questions that I want to research online.

On the other hand, not having Google while debating things in conversation has actually made it more fun! My husband and I spend more time talking about why we think something is the way we think it is and less time looking it up and trying to prove each other wrong. By the time we get home, we’ve usually forgotten all about the conversation from the car ride.

What are the things that inconvenience you the most about not having a smartphone and how can you minimize them with positive habits? Find tools (like my notepad + I also pulled out my old iPod and loaded it with audiobooks and podcasts) that will help you get through the tough times.

2. Why are you doing this, anyway?

Going smartphone-free when you’re as addicted as most of us are is frankly a royal pain in the booty. That’s why it’s super important to constantly remind yourself of why you’re doing this.

Partly my motivation was for mindfulness and simplicity, but partly it was financial – and I think both of these motivations worked together to keep me on track. When I thought “screw this, I’d rather pay the money” my voice of reason kicked in telling me “shut the hell up and enjoy the moment”. The same happened the other way around 🙂

3. Shift your mindset

Most of all, when you find yourself inconvenienced by your lack of smartphone, slap yourself and switch to gratitude!

Yes, I realize this is easier said than done, but here’s a trick that may help:

Write on a little note what you wish you could tell yourself when you’re ready to quit (like “stop complaining, look around, and find someone to talk to”, for instance). You can make as many notes as you wish. Then carry them with you and read them when you need them!

Are you going to take the leap?

So there you go! Some tips for cheating your way to a smartphone-free life and for sticking to it.

Are you addicted to your smartphone? Have you thought of going smartphone-free, even if just for a month? I challenge you to share your experience in the comments 🙂


  1. I love this. Until my phone melted down I had to push notifications on my phone and I disabled email. But I found that had me really checking Facebook. I am right back to being a phone junkie. I am heading to the farm for 10 days. I am going to see how I can survive without it….

  2. connie curtis says:

    not sure but putting a password to not check it all the time even when bored. I am a coach so I will have to have a phone. Does a tablet double as a phone that could be an option but then I will still have 2 devices.. its creating time to be off the social and email. You have to do it.

    • Thanks Connie! Yes, a tablet can double as a phone, but it’s slightly more complicated. There’s nothing wrong with owning a smartphone as long as you’re not letting it take over your life 🙂 Let me know how you’re making out with the changes!

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