Nowadays, most of us are glued to our smartphones. And even though they can help us be more productive and improve the quality of our lives — it can also be a major source of distraction and stress.
Smartphones make a good servant, but a bad master.
Despite the amazing benefits, it’s becoming more and more obvious that most people have no control over their smartphone use — negatively impacting their productivity and mental health.
A study from IDC Research made this very clear. About 80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning — and that’s a big problem.
Reason #1: Increased Stress And Anxiety
When you wake up and immediately check your phone, you’re being bombarded with new messages, emails, to-dos, and other stimuli that often creates a feeling of stress and anxiety.
Immediately, external stimuli are pulling for your attention, giving you no time and space to start your day calmly.
According to Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, “immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed.”
Furthermore, a study at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden measured the effects of smartphone usage on people in their 20s over the course of a year. The study showed that high mobile phone use was directly correlated to increased reports of depression in both men and women — and that’s worrisome.
So, if you want to avoid starting your day feeling rushed, stressed, and anxious, stop checking your smartphone right after waking up. Instead, aim to start in a way so that your mind can relax.
Reason #2: Your Time & Attention Are Hijacked
By checking social media, email, or messaging right after waking up, you let other people’s opinions, requests, and advertising into your mind, which pollutes your thinking.
Your thoughts, ideas, and focus are immediately hijacked by the new messages, emails, and notifications that you’ve received. In other words, your mind will be occupied with other people’s agenda — not your own.
Instead of starting your day proactively focusing on your own goals, you’re being forced to react to other people’s stuff.
Think about it; you wouldn’t let hundreds of people into your house, blasting their requests and opinions at you. So why would you let them into your mind through a device?
Aside from your attention, your time is also being hijacked. What starts out as checking social media for 5 minutes quickly turns into 15 minutes, which then turns into 30 minutes. Before you know it, you have to rush to make it on time to work, starting your day hurried and stressful.
Instead, use the morning to improve yourself, work towards your goals, and prepare yourself for a successful day. Train your brain to be okay with lesser stimulating — yet more beneficial — activities such as reading, meditation, journaling, prioritizing your tasks, scheduling your day, or taking the time to make a healthy breakfast.
Unlike checking your smartphone, these activities decrease stress, help you become more focused & productive, and provide clarity of thinking. That’s a much better start to the day.
Reason #3: You Prime Your Brain For Distraction For The Rest of The Day
By starting the day distracted, you set the tone for a distracted day. Most people assume they can smoothly go from distraction to intense focus, but that’s not the case. According to Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, “The information overload that hits [you] before you’re fully awake interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks.”
In other words, throughout the day, we get distracted much quicker and mess up our productivity by checking our smartphone first thing in the morning.
Julie Morgenstern, author of the book Never Check Email In The Morning, agrees. According to Julie, when you check your email or notifications first thing in the morning, “you’ll never recover. Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless… there is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”
In other words, your ability to focus is heavily decreased when you start your day by being glued to your smartphone. Let’s dive a bit deeper into why that is the case.
Smartphones, Dopamine, and The Brain
When checking social media or email, the brain releases a lot of dopamine — a neurochemical that makes you feel rewarded. The brain craves dopamine like an eight-year-old craves candy, so it will stimulate the repetition of behaviors that led to the dopamine release in the first place.
In other words, when you start your day by mindlessly scrolling through email or social media, your brain will stimulate you to repeat this behavior throughout the day, as it knows it will quickly and easily feel good (especially when your work is less stimulating or gets challenging).
All in all, you’re fighting a battle against the cravings of your brain — which isn’t an easy battle to win.
So, stop checking your smartphone right after waking up if you want to avoid priming your brain for distraction. Instead, start your morning relaxed and calm. Train your brain to get used to lower levels of stimulation.
Two Methods To Stop Checking Your Smartphone In The Morning
Before I share some of the methods I used to stop checking my smartphone, I want to emphasize that I’m not a saint. On some days, it still happens that I check my smartphone in the first 60 minutes after waking up. My biggest weakness is checking business statistics such as Medium views, sales, new email subscribers, etc.
However, the methods that I’ll share here helped get better at avoiding my smartphone for the majority of the mornings — and that’s already worth a lot.
Method #1 is to put your phone on flight mode before you go to sleep. This way, when you wake up, you’re not immediately confronted with new messages and notifications.
Personally, I use my phone as my alarm clock, so it’s essential that I put it on flight mode. If I don’t do that, I’ll immediately be confronted with new notifications on my screen, making it ten times harder to resist the urge to check it.
Tip: You could also try to use a classic alarm clock instead of your smartphone. This way, it will be much less tempting to check your phone first thing in the morning.
Method #2 is to make sure you have replacement activities for checking your smartphone. If you don’t have anything to replace your smartphone habit with, you’ll quickly feel bored and be pulled towards checking social media or email again.
Therefore, make a list of at least 7 things you could do instead of checking your smartphone. For example, you could use the extra free time for things like:
- Listening to a podcast
- Making a healthy breakfast
- Connecting with your kids or spouse
- Scheduling your day
- Prioritizing your tasks
- Setting goals
- Making a cup of coffee
Then, every morning, pick one or more of these activities and follow them instead of checking your smartphone.
Personally, I’ve experienced that starting my day like this makes me feel calm and in control. I also don’t experience as much stress and anxiety anymore. On top of that, my days are much more focused and productive when I start them well.
Now Do It
Change only happens from taking action. Therefore, I encourage you to follow the tips above and avoid your smartphone for the first 60 minutes of your day. Remember, the way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day — so make sure you start it well.
Let me know in the comments if you’re going to try it!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab