How to beat smartphone addiction

Are you addicted to your phone? Here is how to get out of it. 

Willpower is limited

Imagine that you are participating in a scientific experiment. You are sitting in the waiting room, waiting for the experiment to start. In front of you is a huge bowl with delicious chocolate cookies. The entire laboratory smells like a bakery. You haven’t eaten for hours and the cookies look really good. The staff tells you: “Please don’t eat any of the chocolate cookies. Have some radishes instead.”

After twenty minutes of waiting, you are asked to solve a puzzle. You are frustrated since you can’t make it. After a while, you give up.

This is the setup that scientist Roy Baumeister and his team created. In one group, people were eating radishes, and in the other group, they were allowed to eat the chocolate cookies. The puzzle was insolvable. Guess who performed best? The chocolate eaters outperformed their peers and took longer before they gave up, as the puzzle was unsolvable. 

What does this tell us? Willpower is limited. If you want to beat your smartphone addiction or change any habit with the help of willpower, you are doomed. It’s much more effective to outsmart your brain. Let me show you how. 

Make it easy

Behavioral economist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler famously coined the expression “Make it easy”. Rather than fighting against your brain, let’s work with your brain. 

Here is one very simple technique. You might think it’s so simple that it won’t work. The opposite is true. It works, because it is so simple.


Let’s say you are home from work, the kids are all in bed and you are tired. What do you do? Do you watch Netflix? Do you read a book? Do you scroll on your phone?

Every habit is linked to a specific situation. You can only change a habit if you are specific. If you just tell yourself, “I plan to spend less time on the internet”, it’s never going to happen. What can you do instead? 

Create a when-then-connection.

When it’s six pm, I turn off my phone.
When the kids are in bed, I read a book (and turn off my phone) 
When it’s the weekend…

Studies show, it really works! Maybe we can take a moment right away. Write down your personal when-then-connection to increase time spent reading and/or to decrease time spent on the internet. 

This technique is called “implementation intentions” and it has shown to be very effective in all areas of life. 

Try it out! Your brain will thank you for it.