How to use your smartphone like a hammer

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

If we used our phones more like a hammer, would our life be a lot better? At least, according to the musical genius himself, yes.

Look at your phone as a tool, not an obligation. Would you walk around with a hammer in your pocket?  You would pick up a hammer when you needed it. You would never be addicted or obligated to it. Use your phone like a hammer only pick it up when you need it.


It is a very good advice.

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I still use the iPhone 5SE I purchased almost three years ago. It’s cracked top to bottom and has been begging to be put out of its misery for quite some time now. My dad jokes that Apple might have a trophy for me for managing to use such an old beat up iPhone. If they do, please contact me here.

At the end of the day, however, it does what I need a smartphone to do: call, text, and browse the Internet.

A smartphone is an amazing tool.

It is seriously one of the greatest inventions of our time.

It is truly awe-inducing to have such an astounding and innovate instrument available for mass consumption, providing the average person access to almost all of the world’s information at their fingertips.

Unfortunately, smartphones come with their own shortcomings, specifically when it relates to the attention economy.

Corporates have managed to engineer smartphones in ways that it exploits our attention and leave us vulnerable to the attention economy.

According to a recent report, we spend two and a half hours on average on our phones every single day. Why anyone would need to use their phone 17.5 hours a week unless they work part-time at a call centre?

It is very unlikely that the majority of that time is spent on useful information, such as, the historical significance of residential schools or how to manage our emotional health through. Most of the time, we are scrolling through social media pages or other time wasting activities.

People pay ~$1,200 for the newest iPhone model, ~$70 for a monthly unlimited data plan, and use this amazing invention for taking pictures, and scrolling through social media and watching cat videos 90% of the time.

Basically, we have managed to make a great tool available for the average person and then choose to use it to waste time on unproductive activities.

Image result for jackie chan meme

Again, the smartphone, by design, is meant to exploit our attention. It takes a very conscious effort, sustained long term, to be able to overcome the inherently attention-grabbing model of the smartphone.

Although I have quit social media, I still spend way too much time on useless websites that simply waste my time without contributing much to my life, and at times even hindering it.

Is browsing memes and gossip websites an inherently human condition that I should abandon trying to overcome? Perhaps.

Even so, not all hope is lost.

Even my crappy iPhone has proven itself to be useful in so many ways.

Below are some of the ideas for how I have managed to use my phone for mostly practical purposes.

How I use my phone as a tool

The decisions to keep my old crappy iPhone was a very deliberate one.

On my home screen, there are 11 apps that are practical and/or help increase my productivity: Calendar, my Clock, Focus Keeper, Hoopla (a digital library), Messages, Photos, Podcasts, Settings, iTunes, Phone, and Safari.

Seeing those productivity apps when I first turn on my phone encourage me to use them more frequently and keep them at the top of my mind.

On a second page, I have a folder titled Lifestyle.

In the Lifestyle folder are apps for my banking, Evernote, Notes, Sudoku, Whatsapp, WordPress, and the Uber app.

The Sudoku app is the only entertainment based app I have installed, and I find it is a great way to pass time while still allowing my brain to think and process stuff. I absolutely adore the Hoopla app, which gives me free access to an enormous selection of music, audiobooks, and ebooks to enjoy on the go. The Maps app is evidently very convenient to get around places. I have talked about the Focus Keeper app here.

Podcasts are just awesome. Some of my current favourite podcasts include The Simple Sophisticate, The Secret Room, Freakonomics, and Gastropod. I use the Notes and Evernote apps to plan things, make lists, jot down ideas and even journal.

I have managed quite well to make my phone impractical to use for time wasting activities, like mindless browsing. Its minimal set up forces me to do the things I want to do with my time, such as, listen to a podcast and read an ebook.

READ: 7 Easy Hacks That Turn Your Smartphone into the Ultimate Productivity Tool

The biggest change I have made, however, has been cultivating a mind shift regarding my relationship with my phone by making an effort to be conscious and mindful of what I use my phone.

I ask myself questions like ‘why do I care about this celebrity gossip?‘ or ‘do I really need to read another article telling me how to have the best productive morning?‘ Usually, I don’t care and I don’t need any more information on having a productive morning.

It has been very empowering to make changes to help me utilize my phone as a tool, and not a distraction device.

I admit that I’m a weak human-being and am easily manipulated by attention-grabbing apps, online platforms, and memes.

By making a conscious effort to be mindful of my phone use and make intentional changes to adopt a more positive relationship with my phone, I have found the results to be extremely rewarding.


Published by Mehret Biruk

(re)discovering the pleasures of the offline world.

6 thoughts on “How to use your smartphone like a hammer

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