How to stop endlessly scrolling on your phone

If you have an iPhone, Apple’s weekly Screen Time report can be eye-opening. Did I really pick up the phone 36 times and spend 7 hours on social media? You might be tempted to blame the phone as the cause of your distraction, especially if you have notifications turned on. The root cause, however, is your relationship with technology — one that is subject to change, says Dandapani, a Hindu priest, former monk, and author of The power of unwavering focus.

“The problem is that people haven’t yet defined the purpose of the smartphone in their lives,” he says. “I’m pretty clear about my purpose in life and my purpose has defined my priorities. Because I am clear about my purpose and my priorities, I can look at the phone and say, “How can this phone help me live a purposeful life?”

Dandapani views his phone the same way he does tools for his garden. “I keep a few shovels in the shed, and I only use a shovel when I need to dig a hole to plant a tree,” he says. “The rest of the time the shovel stays in the shed.”

The same applies to his cell phone. “I don’t pick up the phone unless it helps me connect to my priorities,” he explains. “Define what you want. Then you can see how the technology will align with you. You can decide which apps you need. What notifications you need. When and how you interact with your phone becomes obvious and clear. Once you define the purpose and relationship, managing technology becomes easier. But if I haven’t defined that purpose and that relationship, then every time the doorbell rings, I respond.”

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Define your purpose

Defining your purpose and figuring out what you want in life requires reflection, a process that can be quite challenging when you’re constantly distracted.

“Most people don’t spend time in self-reflection,” says Dandapani. “You will spend two hours with a friend, but you will not spend two hours with yourself. When people spend time with themselves, they read a book or listen to music. How about listening to your own thoughts and what you want? . . . If you don’t spend time with yourself, you won’t know.”

Self-reflection requires concentration, looking inward long enough to experience what you really want. The problem is that many of us are looking for a quick fix, says Dandapani.

“There is no quick fix,” he says. “We live in this world that trains us to go from one thing to another. It’s 60 second TikTok videos moving on to the next. If you do this for 3 or 4 hours, you train your mind to focus on one thing for just 60 seconds. Even if you sit down to reflect on yourself, you can only reflect on yourself for 60 seconds because that is the pattern you have created in your head.”

build focus

To improve your focus, you need to practice concentration. Instead of meditating, however, Dandapani recommends starting with the non-negotiable, recurring events of an average day. For example, you can talk to your spouse or partner in five-minute or 20-minute increments for a total of two hours a day.

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“Every time I talk to my wife, I give her my undivided attention,” says Dandapani. “I keep an eye on her. If my mind wanders while she’s speaking, I’ll bring her back. I am adamant about this practice.”

You can practice concentration for two hours in one day. After six months you will be able to concentrate better. “We are masters of distraction because we practice it 8 to 10 hours a day,” says Dandapani. “Practice concentration instead of distraction.”

If you can practice focus instead of distraction, you can enter periods of self-reflection. You can define your purpose and priorities, and change your relationship with your smartphone. “Find out what you want in life and how technology can help you,” says Dandapani. “Smartphones are not to blame. The culprit is an inability to discipline their use.”

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