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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C
# live a better life
Get a headstart - Monitor your phone use this week
The first key to bringing about change? Seeing what’s really going on.

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HOW DO YOU feel after yesterday’s quiz?

Happy about your phone use? Disappointed? Annoyed? Or feel neutral?

There’s no right way to feel about it. This week we’re just getting our heads around how we use our phone, before we start to make major changes.

Today, we’re going to start monitoring our phone use.


So we can really see how much we’re using our phones, and which apps we’re using the most. The results might surprise you, or reinforce what you already suspected.

We’re asking you to monitor your phone use for the rest of the week. Then, on Friday, we’ll look back at how we got on.

How to monitor

shutterstock_510559453 Shutterstock / Amazingmikael Shutterstock / Amazingmikael / Amazingmikael

There are a few ways to do this.

  • The first is to do it manually yourself, by writing down or logging digitally whenever you use your phone, for how long, and on which apps/sites.

If that sounds like a lot of work, then – as you suspected – there’s an app for that.

A few apps, in fact:

  • Checky – Phone Habit Tracker (iOS)

This just tracks how many times you’ve checked your smartphone, but not which apps you’re using. You can check in at any time and see how many times you’ve sneaked a peek at your phone.

This goes a step further and tells you not only how many times you’ve checked your phone, but how many minutes you spent on the apps you used.

This tracks your phone usage and app usage. It also allows you to set daily limits, but don’t worry about that just now. The aim is just to monitor.

This app lets you monitor your phone usage, screen unlocks and your app usage. Like Moment, you can also schedule in tech breaks.

Why monitoring?

Habits guru Gretchen Rubin explains why the Strategy of Monitoring works in this video:

Gretchen Rubin / YouTube

“What research shows, is that even if people aren’t specifically trying to change a behaviour, if they monitor that behaviour they tend to do a better job of it – whether it’s exercising, eating healthfully… there’s something about monitoring that helps us change in the right direction,” she says.

As she points out:

It’s very easy to kid yourself, and not realise exactly what you’re doing.

She uses it as one of her Pillars of Habits, alongside the Strategies of Foundation, Scheduling, and Accountability.

(Want to learn more about her approach to habits? You’ll find them all in her book Better Than Before – this isn’t an ad, but a tip from someone who’s read it.)

The main takeaway from today is that if we want to bring about change, we need to realise how we’re really using our phone.

Psychologist Mark Smyth told us that some of our behaviour has to do with the fact that phones are just part of life these days, and that manufacturers continue to come up with ways to keep them in our hands.

“I think they are almost predicting what could be the issues,” he said. “If we are told we cannot function without [phones] we internalise it into our own belief system.” This means that when we can’t be without our phone, “automatically that will increase our anxiety levels”.

But he says that using phones for everything can have negative impacts, such as on our ”problem solving skills and ability to work out solutions”.

These “have become a little bit diluted because of phones” he said. “Rather than ask a friend or go off and do research – let’s ask Google. We don’t have time to even work out maths, we slip up the calculators on our phones and use them.”

This series isn’t about going back to the abacus, but in monitoring our phone use this week, we can ask ourselves some questions:


  • What did we notice?
  • Did we replace phone use with something else?
  • Did it feel comfortable or uncomfortable?


Tell us how you’re getting on in the comments.

Catch up with all of our Live A Better Life series so far>

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