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This Man Made His Smartphone 'Distraction-Free' -- And It Changed His Life

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Jake Knapp, a blogger and design partner at Google Ventures, knew he had a problem. His smartphone, he said, made him “twitchy” with anxiety -- to the point where he could not put it down. Without enough willpower to resist an avalanche of distracting apps, it felt as though his life were disappearing at lightning speeds.

And Knapp is far from alone: A majority of Americans, for instance, would rather give up sex than their smartphones, according to a recent study. And just last week, a theme park in China implemented a separate walkway for phone-addicted pedestrians.

So Knapp concocted an experiment to make his phone distraction-free. And what began as a trial run has evolved into a full-throttle lifestyle transformation. One year later, he writes via Medium, there’s no looking back.

How did he do it? First, Knapp removed every app on his iPhone that could theoretically lead to endless content streams. He enabled a restriction in settings to get rid of Safari, deleted all of his email accounts and also pushed a wiggly X on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times.

Related: Smartphone or Sex: Which Would You Rather Give Up? (Infographic)

While the newly scant screen was instantly soothing, there were certain apps that Knapp chose to keep -- including Phone, Messages, Camera and other “non-distractors” like Dropbox, Google Maps and Uber. Of course, unmovable features like Passbook and Game Center also remain fixed.

The payoff of the rejiggered homescreen? “Times on the bus when I would’ve checked email, I listen to music or just look around,” Knapp observes. “At home, the phone becomes part of the stereo, and nothing more. At work, I set the thing down a lot.”

“The weird part is this: This experiment was supposed to be a hardship. Now? It feels like the easy way out.”

Read Knapp’s full account of the experiment here -- where he’s also collaging images of readers’ homescreens who are attempting to follow suit.

Related: Best Idea Ever: A Walkway for Smartphone-Addicted Pedestrians

Edition: December 2016

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