Permanent link for Unplugging Can Be Hard...But It Doesn't Have to Be on January 26, 2023

You know those days when you keep trying to finish a homework assignment and somehow the time keeps flying by…and your phone keeps getting in the way? You rack up all the motivation you have but your phone is just taunting you to pick it up, and somehow you are subconsciously pulling up Instagram, Snapchat, *insert app/social media here* again . A couple hours later you still have more homework to do. The plans you had for the night– watching a show, game night with friends, book reading, video gaming, (or whatever your jam might be)-- become harder to fit in by the minute!

Reasons We Grab Our Phones

It turns out this is not an uncommon scenario, and there are many reasons our phone is the first thing we grab when doing homework or waiting for class to start. One reason could be the feeling of missing out (aka FOMO). A study that collected data from 3,606 college students found that when individuals had FOMO, they often were more likely to feel the urge to grab for their phone. The study also found that FOMO was not as common in those who thought fondly of the future and felt they had a strong social support group. 

There are many other feelings like FOMO that could cause us to subconsciously reach for or turn on a screen:

  • Screen time can cause the brain to send signals of happiness (in the moment) that the brain increasingly craves
  • There is a link between being uninterested and using a phone
  • Depending on the person, feelings during social situations could increase phone use

What do you think causes you to look at your phone or pull up a screen? Maybe the above reasons sparked some ideas, maybe not. Either way, the following tips, tricks and resources may help you find out, or at the very least help you to unplug and do what you truly want to do!


One way that could prevent FOMO, being uninterested, or having other scenarios leading to high phone use is by following a tip by Laura Vanderkam. In the Food Heaven podcast “Listen to This if You Struggle with Time Management” she says it is a good idea to take some time each Friday and outline a page as shown below:

Using this template, each Friday (or day that works best for you) you can make a plan for the upcoming week, giving you times to look forward to in the following week.

Laura Vanderkam also says that instead of trying to find shortcuts in the day so that there is more time to unplug, it can be easier to simply fill the day with activities that bring you joy. For example, instead of looking for ways to make a Quizlet faster, you could set up a time to hang out with a friend. This planned event will mean there will be less time to make the Quizlet, so you will spend less time making the Quizlet.

Everyone has different priorities so it can be helpful to write down your personal priorities so that it is clear how much time should be spent in each area of your life. This goes along with setting healthy boundaries and making sure to stick with them.


There are various tools you could use to not be tempted to look at your phone. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • An app called Flora. I started using it last semester and I give it above five stars! This app allows you to grow plants while staying off your phone. Not to mention, you can grow trees with your friends by joining each other’s study rooms!
  • Adjusting settings. Stella mentioned in her Press Pause: Unplugged blog post last year that she likes to adjust the settings of certain apps to notify her when a certain amount of time has passed. 
  • And my personal favorite, the out-of-sight-out-of-mind method: toss your distracting device in a random drawer or room out of your field of view.

And Resources

If the above tips and tricks are not working for you, or you are having trouble figuring out how this can fit into your daily life, there are many resources on campus that are waiting to help. One of these is the Wellness Navigators at Recreation & Wellness. Wellness Navigators are students like you who can help you with anything related to ways to unplug, setting boundaries, getting connected to resources on campus, time management, or any student or wellness goals you may have. If you sign up, the discussions and meetups with your Wellness Navigator will be completely tailored to what you need, even if that means simply talking over the phone or connecting through email.

For longer-term goals, sign up with a Wellness Coach at Recreation & Wellness. If you are experiencing mental health stressors for more than a few days at a time, the Counseling Center has many services for students that can help. 

You Know You

Everyone has different goals and needs, so when reflecting on your phone use make sure you have in mind what is realistic and makes sense for you. The Laura Vanderkam template and the Flora app are only a few ways to stay off your phone, so it’s okay if they don't work for you. There are many ways you can figure out the best strategies for you to unplug, and there are trained studentsWellness Coaches and counselors that are eager to figure it out with you!

By: Josie Kasmauskis, WIT Peer Educator

Example of Laura Vanderkam's outline for creating times to look forward to in your upcoming week.

Categories: Press Pause
Posted on Permanent link for Unplugging Can Be Hard...But It Doesn't Have to Be on January 26, 2023.

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Page last modified January 26, 2023