It feels like a pretty safe bet to say that most of us are (at least mildly) addicted to our phones. Oftentimes they're the first thing that we look at in the morning, and the last things that we look at as we go to bed. Ok, sometimes they even hit us in the head as we doze off, somehow still clutching on as we fade. If you're anything like me, it can also seem like a next-to-impossible task to try and get into a better habit with its use. So with 2021 under way, it felt like just the right time to share a tool that's helped me dramatically curb my phone addiction.

Let's be honest here…I'd suspect that very few of us wake up excited to know that we're likely going to spend hours on end staring at our pocket computers. To make matters worse, we've seen by way of things such as Netflix's The Social Dilemma that many of the apps have weapons-grade attention-grabbing, addictive tactics employed everywhere.

Seomwhere at the beginning of the year, I actually felt like I was getting a bit of a handle on my screen time. The time tracker built into iOS showed me as having my screen on for less than three hours a day. Rejoice! Then…COVID. Quarantine threw my good habits out the window and the Pandora's Box that was my phone opened with its wide and welcoming maw. Things seemed…bleak, and my addiction was feeling even harder to quell.

Man staring at phone
Courtesy of Unsplash

So how are we mere mortals supposed to actually fend off the onslaught of beeps, buzzes, and dopamine dosing apps? After all, it's not particularly realistic to not use our phones. Right now they're our connection to the outside world, to our loved ones, and sometimes a bit of escapsim from our challenges. The goal then is to find ways to manage, and actually equip ourselves with a bit of defense against the dark arts of the app makers.

Taking One Sec

One Sec app image from the App Store
One Sec

Mid-year I happened upon an app called One Sec, an app for $1.99 that promised to help out. The core premise was simple—whenever you opened up an app that you've designated as needing time out from, One Sec would take over instead, suggesting you take a breath. It can be configured for 3 second, 5 second, or 10 second pauses after an app open. While it may seem ridiculously simple in its premise, it's remarkably effective at achievivng its goal.

Once you've got it set up on your phone, the flow is straightforward…you try to open up an app like Twitter and One Sec will launch instead. It'll give you a countdown of sorts, forcing you to wait it out before letting the offending app open. In my experience I've found that about 8 out of 10 launches, I was just fine not letting the app continue to open.

Animated GIF showing how the One Sec app functions
Demo of One Sec when attempting to open Twitter

How well does it work?

In the screenshot below, can you tell which day I turned One Sec back on?

As the 2020 Presidential Election was approaching, I disabled One Sec. I'd told myself that it was somehow worthwhile and important for me to drink from the firehose instead of trying to avoid it. Now, months later I found myself right back to my old habits that I'd developed during quarantine—sometimes seeing four, five, and six hour screen time days.

"I can quit any time I want"

What a quaint idea, right? That's certainly what I'd told myself. But seeing the eye popping figures, I knew I'd have to curb it again. So once more I employed the help of One Sec and immediately saw the difference, going from a near four hour screen time day, to just about 45 minutes.

Now, I still try to open literally all of those offending apps. Muscle memory has me so well trained that even when I'm just filling up my water bottle from the dispenser, my thumbs are firing up Twitter without even noticing. This time though, there's something helping me recognize those moments trigger me into realizing what's going on.

Simply put, I couldn't recommend One Sec more for those of us who seem to struggle with being able to disconnect from our phones. It only takes a couple bucks and a few minutes to get started—but it's one of the best things you could do to finally get a line of defense going.

How to set up One Sec

To get you kicked off faster, here's a little walkthrough on the steps you need to take to get it to work:

Screenshot showing how to set up One Sec

First, open up Shortcuts. Tap on Automation, then the + in the top right corner. Lastly, tap on "Create Personal Animation"

Screenshot showing how to set up One Sec

Next you're going to scroll down and look for "App", which will take you to a screen where you can tap "Choose" and then search for the app you want to pause from.

Screenshot showing how to set up One Sec

Now that the app is selected, tap Next, followed by + Add Action. Once you're in Actions have a look for "One Sec" and tap on "Take One Sec…"

Screenshot showing how to set up One Sec

You'll see some text that's greyed out…just tap there. You'll then go search for the app that you're trying to block. Not everything is available, but if you're resourceful there's a way to customize the available apps from directly within One Sec.

After you hit "Next" you're done! And you're well on your way to some deep breaths…

What do you think? Is One Sec an app that you'll give a shot and add to your digital life? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think!