What happened when I deleted (almost) all social media apps from my phone

Issue # 44

Hey there, I’m Lesley. Welcome to the latest issue of Failing Forward — A weekly newsletter sharing my experience as a bootstrapped co-founder.

There’s no bravado here. I fear failure, just like you. I write this newsletter to remind us both that failure is not just okay, it’s often the best way forward.

Since 2019, I’ve tried to be more present by putting my phone away. But Covid has made this difficult.

Being stuck at home presented many new opportunities for temptation, and I began to reach for my phone more often.

Before I knew it, reading, scrolling, watching and commenting began to fill up every extra bit of attention I had in my day. I even felt compelled to load a YouTube video to watch while brushing my teeth.

Last week, someone told me I was always on my phone, and that it was a little rude. At that moment, I realised things had gotten out of hand.

Sorry to interrupt, but if you’re enjoying this post, you might want to subscribe and receive new issues (just like this one) via email.

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Immediately, I deleted Twitter, Discord and YouTube from my phone.

I started using Twitter this year to promote Newsletter Glue. I didn’t like it at the start, but I now enjoy and see the value in hanging out in my curated bubble of makers, WordPress professionals and entrepreneurs.

But there’s two sides to every coin. And in my case, I’d sometimes waste an hour a day in a Twitter hole.

Likewise, I’m in a few Discord servers and found myself spending time scrolling mindlessly in there as well.

Since I only use both for work, I decided to limit my access to them to my computer.

Finally, I’ve spent an hour or more a day on YouTube on my phone since Covid. I’ve discovered so many interesting videos, but it’s also a lot of mindless viewing. Surprisingly, despite all those hours I used to spend on it, I don’t miss it. In fact, the version of this newsletter which I sent out to subscribers failed to even mention YouTube!

I then removed Instagram from my home screen.

I didn’t completely delete Instagram because I use it for DMs. Besides, web Instagram is just weird.

However, removing it from my home screen means I have to hunt for Instagram every time I want to open it. That additional inconvenience puts some separation between me and my zombie brain, which helps remind myself not to succumb.

It’s also worth mentioning that I removed Facebook from my phone last year and have not missed it.

Finally, I culled the number of Slack groups I have on my phone.

I’m currently logged into 17 Slack groups on my computer. In comparison, I have 4 Slack groups on my phone.

Yes, I know 17 is excessive. But I’ve gotten value out of all of them in some form in the past, so I’m reluctant to remove them.

As a result, my life changed overnight and I was magically transformed into a productivity god.

Yeah right!

Here’s what really happened:

I was bored a lot more.

In the past, I’d start mindlessly scrolling every time I was tired with work, needed a break or had to context switch. As a result, it would often take an hour or more to re-emerge from my social media hole, refocus and get back to work.

Now, I didn’t have that option. Instead, I’d just lie on my couch or on my bed feeling bored.

And when I felt bored enough, I’d get back to work. This only took about 10 minutes.

In effect, I found that letting myself get bored was a healthier, faster and more effective way to reset my mind than a “quick look at Twitter”.

I read more books.

This past week, I finished the second half of What It Takes by Stephen Schwarzman and started The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel.

Every time I picked up my phone to scroll mindlessly, I’d realise I couldn’t. So I’d open the Kindle app instead.

I noticed how many times a day I’d reflexively and brainlessly pick up my phone for a quick scroll.

Despite deliberately trying to use my phone less and removing the main sources of mindless scrolling on my phone, I still reflexively picked up my phone to do so 2-3 times a day. Truthfully, this is kind of horrifying.

I sat around at dinner parties while others around me used their phones.

On Monday, I went to my uncle’s house for dinner. At one point, every one (5 people) was seated in the living room using their phones in silence.

Given that this was at the beginning of my no-phone decision, my resolve was still strong. So I just sat there waiting for people to put their phones down. Eventually they did, but I spent an interesting 5 minutes thinking about how ludicrous we humans had become.

I failed all the damn time.

I tried my best to set myself up for success, yet constantly failed.

Failed on Twitter

On Thursday, I used Twitter on my phone’s web browser.

To be clear, this wasn’t a mindless accident. Without the app, accessing Twitter on my phone now requires considerable and deliberate effort: I have to open up my password manager, copy my password, fill in the login form, then complete two-factor authentication.

In addition, let’s not forget that Twitter on a mobile browser is a really shitty user experience.

Nevertheless, I persisted. The addiction is real.

Failed on Instagram

I average 25m/day last week on Instagram. Happily, I only spent 1 minute on Wednesday. But I fell into deep hour-long holes on Thursday and Saturday.


It’s absurd how difficult this was. And if I hadn’t removed the apps from my phone, I would have failed in a more magnificent fashion.

I think the actionable principle here is that it’s important to set yourself up for success. Once you’ve decided on a goal, you should immediately decide on and implement tactics to set yourself up for success and correspondingly limit your chances for failure. If you don’t have these in place, failure is almost certainly guaranteed.

I’m building Newsletter Glue — an email newsletter platform on WordPress with a Gutenberg-first approach.

Here’s what I got up to this week…

🔥 Highlights from this week

We’re 90% done with 4 blocks. Video on this coming soon!

Pretty happy with how the website is coming along. Here’s a sneak peek 👀

💔 Lowlights from this week
  • Not much, but I constantly wish we were moving faster.
  • I also have perpetual anxiety over the potential failure of our pro launch.
✅ Completed this week
  • Basic form block
  • Author byline block
  • Meta data block
  • Homepage
  • Pricing page
🎯 Goals for next week
  • 100% complete the website
  • 100% complete 4 blocks
  • Start announcing it on Twitter

Worth a thousand words


Worth your while: Here are my favourite links from this week

Watch: Why Being a “Mouth-Breather” Is Bad For You

Before writing Breath, James Nestor wrote Deep, a book about Freediving which, being into the sport myself, I obviously read! Breathing is a huge part of freediving, so to me, Breath is simply an extension of Deep, and I look forward to reading it.

I became even more interested in reading Breath after watching James Nestor on the Joe Rogan Experience. In this video, he explains why mouth breathing is a problem that goes beyond looking and sounding unhealthy and congested. I was most interested to learn that if you don’t use the muscles in your nose, your nasal passageways close up over time, making it harder for you to breath through your nose even if you wanted to.
Watch video →

Read: How to price your SaaS product

Lenny Rachitsky’s newsletter for software products and growth is one of the best in its niche. In this free edition, he invites ProfitWell’s founder and CEO, Patrick Campbell, to explain how to price your SaaS product.

Patrick covers a lot and in great detail, but the main points are: how to determine your value metric. Then how to determine your customer segments.

I’m currently trying to figure out how to price my pro plugin, so this was really helpful for me. We’re launching with 9 pro blocks, if you have some advice on how to price this, I’d love to hear it!
Read article →

Read: Research indicates that most people who subscribe to news online only have one subscription. And the New York Times wants to be it.

“Local publishers may not believe that they are competing with the Times, but the Times believes it is competing with them…

A 2019 study from Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that the vast majority of news subscribers in thirty-eight countries “have ONE online [news] subscription.”…

The New York Times has more digital subscribers in Dallas–Fort Worth than the Dallas Morning News, more digital subscribers in Seattle than the Seattle Times, more digital subscribers in California than the LA Times or the San Francisco Chronicle.’

This article was so interesting, and really opened my eyes to the journalism business.
Read article →

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