How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price: Summary and Notes

how to break up with your phone“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically—to say no to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”

Rating: 7/10

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How To Break Up With Your Phone: Short Summary

How To Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price shows you how to reclaim your life from addictive phones and other digital technologies. Price offers a 30-day detox plan that, if followed, has the potential to transform your relationship with your phone for good. A very instructive book.


More and more people are now addicted to their smartphones, which harms other aspects of their lives.

Alarming statistics on phone use:

  • On average, Americans check their phones at least 47 times a day
  • On average, Americans spend more than 4 hours on their phones every day
  • 80% of Americans check their phones within half an hour after waking up
  • Half of all smartphone owners check their phone in the middle of the night
  • Nearly 1 out of every 10 American checks their phone during sex
  • Half of all Americans agree with the following statement: “ I can’t imagine a life without my phone”

Several studies show a relationship between heavy smartphone use and negative effects such as neuroticism, self-esteem, depression, impulsivity, self-identity, empathy, and sleep problems.

Part 1: The Wake-up

Our Phones Are Designed to Addict Us

Compared to other forms of technologies, smartphones are different. They are designed to give us feedback.

“Smartphones engage in disruptive behaviors that have traditionally been performed only by extremely annoying people. What’s more, they give us access to the entire internet. And, unlike previous technologies, we keep them near us at all times.”

Smartphones and other digital products not only have neurological effects but are explicitly designed to trigger them.

Putting The Dope In Dopamine

To maximize the amount of time that we spend on our phones, designers manipulate our brain chemistry in ways that create addictive behaviors.

Many of the techniques that they use involve a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is central to motivation, and its release is what makes us excited.

Smartphones take advantage of the fact that dopamine is also released in anticipation of a reward.

“If your brain learns that checking your phone usually results in a reward, it won’t take long before your brain releases dopamine any time it’s reminded of your phone.”

The Tricks Of The Trade

To hook users on their products, social media apps rely on the power of intermittent reinforcements.

Intermittent reinforcements are variable reinforcements that are always new and surprising.

For example:

When you scroll through LinkedIn, you never know what the next item on the feed will be.

Smartphones also tap into our fear of missing out (FOMO). They make it easier to know about the things that we are missing out on. And make us convinced that the only way to keep up-to-date is by constantly checking our phones.

Another trick that social media sites employ is the human need to be loved. People want their posts to be liked by others and will go to great lengths to be popular on social media.

Instead of getting to the root of their problems, some people resort to using smartphones to self-medicate.

Why Social Media Sucks

Your attention is what gets sold on Social Media. Every moment we spend on social media is attention spent making money for someone else.

The unfortunate thing about this is that attention is the most valuable thing we have. In other words, we experience that which we pay attention to.

“Once you’re aware of the motives behind social media platforms— namely, attention stealing and information gathering—you’ll begin to notice how these motives are incorporated into their designs.”

Studies show that the more we use social media, the less happy we become.

Humans are terrible at multitasking. Even those who believe that they are great at multitasking are not. Our brains can only process one cognitively demanding task at a time.

Multitasking is not only exhausting, but it also makes us unproductive.

Your Phone Is Changing Your Brain

how to break up with your phone - Your Phone Is Changing Your Brain

Your brain is constantly changing, and your smartphone is accelerating the change. Through thought and practice, we can change the structure and function of our brains.

When we are using our phones, we are in a state of focused distraction. A state that is particularly good at creating long-lasting changes in our brain.

“If you wanted to create a society of people who were perpetually distracted, isolated, and overtired, if you wanted to weaken our memories and damage our capacity for focus and deep thought, if you wanted to reduce empathy, encourage self-absorption, and redraw the lines of social etiquette, you’d likely end up with a smartphone.”

Smartphones also limit our ability to focus and to work on demanding tasks while limiting our working memory.

How To Take Back Your Life

The damage that smartphones do to our brains is reversible. You can improve your concentration, rebuild your attention span and improve your memories.

The first step to taking back your life is to practice mindfulness. Practice paying attention to how your cravings feel emotionally and physically and relaxing into them.

“Paying deliberate attention to your moment-to-moment experience also gives you more fodder for memories that don’t involve your phone.”

What we think as irresistible urges are invitations being sent by our brains. You can stop and ask why your brain why it is sending the invitations.

“The more you practice being mindful, the more it becomes obvious that your brain has a mind of its own.”

Part II: The Break-up

Week 1: Technology Triage

  • Day 1: Download a tracking app: A tracking app will tell you how many hours you spend on your phone
  • Day 2: Assess your current relationship: Ask yourself what you get from spending time with your phone. Is the relationship healthy?
  • Day 3: Start paying attention. Pay attention to how and when you use your phone. Include your emotional state as you use your phone, your posture, how it makes you feel when other people use their phones around you, and so on
  • Day 4: Take stock and take action:  Look at the results of your tracking app. What did you notice?
  • Day 5: Delete social media apps: Delete social media apps from your phone. You can access them from any other device
  • Day 6: Come back to real life: Now that you have free time on your hands, find something that you always wanted to do and do it
  • Day 7: Get physical: Get some time to get in touch with your body by doing something enjoyable

Week 2: Changing Your Habits

  • Day 8: Say no to notifications: Turn all notifications on your phone off except those of messages and incoming calls
  • Day 9: The life-changing magic of tidying app: Tidy your apps based on two criteria: steal your time and improve your daily life
  • Day 10: Change where you charge.  If you charge your phone in the bedroom, change the location
  • Day 11: Set yourself up for success:  Create routines that make it easier for you to succeed in your endeavor. For example, if you are trying to meditate, decide beforehand what you are going to meditate on
  • Day 12: Download an app blocker: Download an app that blocks access to apps that are likely to suck you in
  • Day 13: Set boundaries: Set no-phone zones
  • Day 14: Stop phubbing: Stop interacting with your phone if you are actively interacting with other people

Week 3: Reclaiming Your Brain

  • Day 15: Stop, breathe and be: When tempted to reach for your phone, stop what you are doing, take a slow breath, and feel what you are experiencing
  • Day 16: Practice pausing: Practice pausing before you reach out for your phone
  • Day 17: Exercise your attention span.  Try to actively focus on something and see how long you can hold
  • Day 18: Meditate:  Choose something like your breathing to focus on
  • Day 19: Prepare for your trial separation: Prepare to separate yourself from your phone for 24 hours
  • Day 20 -21: Your trial separation: Separate yourself from your phone for 24 hours

Week 4: Your New Relationship

  • Day 22: Trial separation recap: Reflect on your trial separation and see what you’ve learned
  • Day 23: Phast: Practice turning your phone off at particular times and events
  • Day 24: Manage your invitations.  Stop, and meditate when you feel the urge to reach out to your phone
  • Day 25: Clean up the rest of your digital life:  Clean up your email, social media, and so on
  • Day 26: Check your checking: Next time you want to reach out to your phone, ask yourself, ‘what is the best that could happen? Chances are what you expect has a very low chance of materializing
  • Day 27: Digital sabbath life hacks: Experiment with breaks from your phone often. Maybe every weekend
  • Day 28: The Seven phone habits of highly effective people: Create a plan to help you maintain a healthy relationship with your phone
  • Day 29: Keep yourself on track: Schedule a regular check-in on yourself
  • Day 30: Congratulations: You made it!  Now, all that you have to do is keep up the practice of