When was the last time you checked your phone? The answer is probably just now. In fact, you’re, by default, reading this on some kind of screen—possibly one you spend more time on than you might like. Statistics show that we check our phones an average of 58 times per day, with almost 52 percent of those phone checks happening during working hours.
Smartphones are designed to capture our attention, and to hold onto it. Whether it’s messages from friends or likes on Instagram, to put it simply, our phone—and the apps stored on it—are expertly designed to stimulate the release of happy hormones, like dopamine and oxytocin. So it’s no wonder that we keep going back for more.
While many of us have tried all sorts of things to cut down on our screen time—from digital detoxes to leaving our phones in another room—the grayscale trick is little-known, easy, and totally free. When personal development coach, Ben Meer, posted about the phone mode that “gives you time rather than takes it” on Instagram (ironic, I know), I tried it immediately.
“The most productive app on your phone is called airplane mode,” wrote Meer. “Now, the second best? Grayscale mode.” If you’ve never heard of grayscale mode before, you’re not alone, but having immersed myself in grayscale for the past 24 hours (and spoken to others who have been doing it for a long time), I can confidently say that it quickly diminishes the phone’s allure.
How does it work? According to Meer, the “brutally effective hack” helps you to reclaim an average of 50 minutes a day and is proven to reduce phone usage, even more than the app limits and downtime features on our phones. It works by dulling the colorful visual stimulus constantly emanating from our devices and makes “your phone less addictive and generally unappealing to engage with,” writes Meer. “Fewer candy-colored apps means less temptation for dopamine snacks.”
When you activate grayscale mode, your screen goes from being a vibrant playground of colors and red alerts to a sea of, well, gray. It can be hard to decipher what app is what, and it’s infinitely less interesting (and more challenging) to engage with—which is an advantageous result on the addiction front.