Change your environment to change your relationship with your phone

March 16, 2023
Rich Donnellan

When you change your relationship with your phone you change your relationship with everyone around you, including yourself. For most of us, that is easier said than done because we've developed some bad habits around how we use our phones.

The entire Aro experience, including the design of the app and the technology of the box, is based on the science of habit formation and the fact that it takes physical space and motivation to help us reduce the amount of time we spend on our phones.

A big part of habit formation is setting up your environment for success. As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says, “What often looks like a lack of willpower is actually the result of a poor environment.”

If you or your family are struggling with screen time and want to connect more away from your devices, here are some ways to set up your environment to make that easier.

1. Establish a designated charging station

We all have those charging cables running under the bed, under the couch, and tucked away in our favorite area of the house. Being able to charge anywhere and everywhere is one of the things that keep us tied to our phones. Set up a single place for charging so you can take a break from your phone while it charges. 

2. Use a real alarm clock that's not your phone

When we tell people we sleep with our phones in Aro they immediately ask, “What do you do for an alarm clock?” We’ve tried a variety of products and here are a few we recommend. Yes - not having your phone next to you, or even in your hand, while you sleep feels weird at first, but we promise it’s worth it.

3. Keep your phone out of sight

Science shows that it takes putting space between you and your phone to eliminate the distraction. And more than that, it takes a bit of friction to keep you from habitually picking it up. That’s the reason the Aro Home device has a lid. Put your phone away, out of sight, and out of reach. If it is charging on the kitchen counter, you are going to pick it up. We promise. We’ve tried it all. 

4. Set up phone-free areas of your home

Along the lines of having a designated charging station in your home, having spaces that you designate as phone free will reduce screen time as well. Whether it's the family room, your office, or the bedrooms, setting up ground rules for you and your kids will result in more quality time together rather than sitting on the couch scrolling next to each other. 

5. Approach screen time as a family

Trying to reduce your screen time is so much easier when tackled as a group, especially as a family. Screen time isn’t just an issue for kids and it isn’t just an issue for parents. It’s something that needs to be approached by the whole family. Parents need to model good relationships with their phones if they expect their kids to do the same. If you are looking for a way to help your kids learn or develop better phone habits, start with yourself and bring them along on the journey vs mandating behaviors and habits you can’t live up to yourselves. As our friend Justin Whitmel Early mentioned on the Aro podcast, “more is caught than taught”, so make sure your kids are catching the right habits from you.

We understand you can't always be in control of your environment. There are also ways to adjust your phone settings to reduce the amount of time you spend on it. These can be helpful, but we believe the most effective solution to using your phone less is not a solution 100% based in your phone. You will often hear us say, “the solution cannot be based inside the problem.” That being said, adjusting settings on your phone is a quick and easy way to start reducing screen time.

1. Disable notifications

While the data shows only 11% of our phone interactions are initiated by notifications, turning off those notifications it’s still a great way to reduce the distractions.

2. Set app limits

Set a time limit on specific apps or types of apps to hold you accountable. 

  • iPhone: Settings -> Screen Time -> App Limits
  • Android: Settings -> Digital Wellbeing & parental controls -> tap the chart -> Set timer
3. Use grayscale

Everything we see on our phones is visually stunning. That’s part of the reason we use them so much. Putting your phone in grayscale mode can make you less likely to keep scrolling. 

  • iPhone: Settings -> Accessibility -> Display & Text Size -> Color Filters -> Toggle Color Filters Off
  • Android: Settings -> Accessibility -> Text and Display -> Color correction -> Select Grayscale
4. Take action from your screen time report

This one is more of a general tip. Both iPhones and Androids give us information about how much time we spend on our devices and detailed information about how we are spending that time. Some of that time is beneficial because our phones help us do things like navigate, stay connected with family and friends, learn, and even order dinner. But…we also get sucked into endless scrolling that can be mediated. Take time to read through your screen time report to see what apps are causing you to be unable to disconnect and set limits if you see areas for improvement. 

Related articles

Aro helps families put down their phones to connect, relax, and recharge.

Aro app leaning against the Aro Home device
A close-up, overhead shot of the Aro showing a phone charging in one of the slots.
A family is gathered in the living room. Teenage kids run around while the parents relax on the sofa.

Life happens off your phone

Make phone-free time a part of your daily routine with Aro.