10 Ways to Get Off Your Phone

ADHD-friendly coloring pages are one idea for getting off your phone

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It happens to the best of us. That easy hit of dopamine that fits so conveniently in your pocket. It provides you with fast access to all the answers to all of your endless questions. It’s hard to get off your phone but it’s something we could all benefit from doing more of.

While many people struggle with regulating their screen time, this can be a particularly difficult battle for the neurodivergent. We struggle with interruptions and transitions from one task to another. So, if we get stuck playing something or doom-scrolling, we can get stuck that way for hours. Many of us have the autistic need to finish a task. This means we’re unusually bothered by being unable to complete a task and often can’t focus on anything else until it’s been completed. This can be really frustrating for our loved ones trying to interact with us. In our heads, we’re just trying to finish a task that’s consuming us. Unfortunately, that all-consuming task can be something that seems small and irrelevant to others and they feel dismissed.

Apart from being potentially damaging to our relationships, spending too much time on our phones can impact our brain chemistry. Sure, most people have heard that being on your phone too much is bad for you. But research has shown that screen time can be significantly dysregulating for people with autism. Screen time works as a stimulant which affects the neurodivergent brain differently than it does a neurotypical brain.

Limiting My Own Screen Time

I know screens are fun. The memes are funny and relatable. Your friends are all there in one place. That last one is particularly hard for me. Living in Israel, a lot of my loved ones are 7-10 hours behind me over in America. This means I tend to start my day and end it by checking in and catching up with them. I also have a tendency to start playing a game in my downtime. Except some of them slowly seep into other parts of my day which is why this is an area I’ve been actively working on.

There’s no reason for my partner to feel put off or like I’m being short with him because I’m merging shiny digital objects. I also started to realize how it makes me feel like I start my day behind and fall asleep still needing to catch up. By the time I’m trying to work as a freelance writer, I have so many words swimming in my head already, my brain feels like I’m grasping at straws trying to form my own.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been someone who needs to be doing something else while watching TV. I realized a lot of the screen time I was taking was to occupy my hands while watching things. That in mind, I’ve been trying to remember things I used to do while watching TV before we had iPhones. I’ve combined those ideas with other suggestions I’ve come across and compiled them for you below.

10 Ways to Get Off Your Phone

  1. Do a Puzzle
    I have a stash of puzzles thanks to numerous Covid lockdowns and white elephant gifts. You’re probably saying “I don’t have the space!” but I’m here to tell you that is not an excuse! There are all kinds of cool puzzle-storing tables and roll-up mats these days. Another option is smaller puzzles that don’t take days or weeks to finish while still keeping your hands busy.

    I have a puzzle mat like this that allows me to roll it up if needed. It’s not perfect, when you roll it and unroll it some of the pieces shift a bit and I have to redo them so I wish I had gone with the non-inflatable option. It is, however, perpetually covered in dog hair which is definitely not helpful.
Puzzles are one idea for getting off your phone.

But this is what dreams are made of ♫ Seriously, have dreams about this well-organized puzzle table.

  1. Color
    Clearly not just for kids given the surge in adult coloring books, coloring is a great way to unwind. Personally, I don’t like a lot of adult coloring book offerings. Sure, many of them are the way they are because some studies have shown coloring mandalas to be particularly anxiety-reducing. But personally, they’re too much for me. I have to make too many decisions about colors and then end up frustrated with the color options I have. They’re often tedious and intricate designs that overwhelm my spicy brain. They also tend to have so many small parts that need coloring it angers my arthritis. Not particularly relaxing. With all that in mind, I made some coloring pages of my own. They’re made with bigger spaces and designs that don’t require a longtime commitment.
More dinos here if you’re looking.
  1. Try Low Dopamine Mornings
    I heard about this approach on social media and started trying it recently and it’s been incredibly helpful. Low dopamine mornings are when you avoid screens for the first thirty minutes after you wake up. It sounded a bit crazy to me at first but each day I’ve tried it, I’ve been surprised to see how far I get in the morning before remembering my phone. On these days I don’t check my phone or turn the TV on for at least half an hour after waking up. I’ve been noticeably more productive with work, less irritable, reading more, and overall I spend less time on my phone for the rest of the day.
  2. Have Paper and Pen on Standby
    Some days, the hardest part of getting off my phone is that my brain keeps reminding me of items to put on the grocery list, things that need to be cleaned, blog post ideas, and appointments to remember. I open my phone to put this information down before it falls out of my brain and the next thing I know, I’ve been texting with the group chat on both Instagram and Whatsapp for 20 minutes. Keeping a piece of paper and pen next to my keyboard (and on days the spice blend is particularly strong: next to my yoga mat) helps me get the things out from swirling around in my head. This allows me to focus better and more on what I’m doing than stressing about what not to forget while also preventing me from getting sucked into another dopamine doom session on my phone.
  1. Make Friendship Bracelets
    I always loved making these and I don’t know why I stopped. I also love embroidery so I already have a lot of embroidery floss I’ve been getting out to make friendship bracelets with lately. Once you learn the knots, it’s wonderfully repetitive and doesn’t take much focus. If you want a good place for tutorials, check out my Pinterest board for patterns and color palettes!

  1. Have a Book Handy
    Many people wake up with nature calling and head straight to the bathroom, phone in hand. Starting your day this way starts you off seeking dopamine and instant gratification so swap your phone out for a book on your morning toilet trip. I also squeeze in reading instead of being on my phone in other ways. If I’ve finished my morning routine but still have some time on the clock for my planned no-screen period, I’ll read for a bit. If I actually decide to eat (or am able to stomach) breakfast in the morning, I will read my book instead of scrolling on my phone. Do you take a bus or train to work? Book! Have a doctor’s appointment where you might get stuck in the waiting room? Book! Struggling to feel sleepy at night? Well then definitely put down the phone and pick up a book. Science says so. If your concern is that you *actually* get most of your news during these scroll sessions, consider subscribing to a physical newspaper. I assure you, they still exist and could use your support. Fold up sections that interest you and you can even take them on the go. It’s crazy, I know.
  1. Keep a Paper To-Do List
    Similar to #4 but a bit different. Keeping a paper and pen handy is where I put a scattered list of wide-ranging topics that randomly pop into my mind while trying to focus on other things. Some of those items will get added to my to-do list for the week. Some will go to my list of running ideas for the blog and Etsy store. I have many lists I could continue to give examples of but I think you get the picture. By keeping a paper to-do list (or in my case, lists) you can refer to or add things without the risk of distracting phone notifications.
  1. Get a Physical Alarm Clock
    If the temptation of texting from bed is too much, move your charger and leave your phone in another room. This will help improve your sleep, another factor that will help improve your focus.
Dinosaur alarm clock to hep with low-dopamine mornings

I recently got this adorable dino clock for next to my bed in an attempt to leave my phone charging in another room. The directions were in Chinese so here’s hoping I set it right and no awful-sounding alarms go off at a weird hour.

  1. Do Something Active
    That’s not as ableist as it sounds. Is going on a walk great for you? Yes. But those of us who are getting stuck on our phones aren’t usually doing it at a time we can feasibly just go for a little nature stroll. I also know firsthand how much time I end up spending on my phone when my joints hurt which ultimately isn’t helpful, but my activities are limited at the time so it is what it is. Being active can also be small things like walking a few laps around the living room or stretching for a few minutes. If you’re needing downtime in front of the TV, use a grip or hand strengthener to keep your hands busy (and strong for those of us with hand strength issues.)
  2. Play a Physical Board Game
    Sorry to those of you who live alone but for the rest of you: invest in some board games you enjoy playing. Instead of getting lost in your phone next to your partner who is lost in their phone, get lost in a game together. If you’re as overly competitive as we are in our house, please remember you love each other and that this is supposed to be fun.
  3. Give Your Plants Some TLC
    If you’re managing to keep them watered, don’t proceed to drown them again before they’re ready. There are other things you can do to fuss over your plants outside of watering them such as dusting their leaves with a soft, damp cloth. You can also aerate the soil, prune dead leaves, or try your hand at propagating succulent leaves. Touching plants and soil can increase serotonin levels so really feel that soil if your neurotransmitters need a boost.
Some of my plants and current succulent propagation station.

Bonus Idea For Those Without Plants:

Go get some plants!!!!!!


Real Bonus Idea: Do Some Origami
You probably don’t know a bunch of origami off the top of your head. Don’t worry, you can still get folding with origami printables you find online. Don’t have a printer? Check out an origami kit on Amazon!

ADHD Phone Hacks

What about you? How much time do you spend on your phone, is it impacting other parts of your life? What are some ADHD or other neurodivergent phone hacks that help you be more present and productive? Drop me your thoughts in the comments!

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