How to use your phone addiction to actually learn

I swear I used to have more time than now, sometimes I wonder how much of it is because of my phone.

It’s very easy to lose half an hour here and there to mindless browsing. Now, if you don’t feel guilty about using your phone, that’s okay, we all get to decide how we want to spend our time on earth, and no one should feel guilty for scrolling if that’s what brings them joy. Gives. However, I often find that I feel absolutely nothing while scrolling. I do not earn anything from the activity that I devote hours to daily. I wish I had used that time to learn something.

As it turns out, I’m not the first to think so. There are many apps that can break your phone addiction and allow you to learn new things during your downtime.

Decide what you want to learn and find programs

I live in a city with a large Spanish speaking population. I studied Spanish in college and even used it for work during a summer job at a daycare, but almost as soon as I left college I forgot everything I knew about the language. However, I wish I could still speak it, which is why I started using Duolingo. The program offers quick lessons, and I am regaining my ability to read and speak the language.

What I find really interesting, however, is that Duolingo takes a few design cues from video game design to make learning addictive. For example, there is an XP system that is used to rank you against other learners. This appeals to me right now. I’m an RPG gamer at heart, which means if there’s an XP stat, I want to see that number increase. But the design hooks go deeper: if you train in the morning, you’ll get a double XP boost that you can use that night. Practicing at night gives you a double XP boost that you can use the next morning. This little loop helped me develop a habit of learning Spanish.

Of course, there are other great programs for learning languages. Brilliant offers interactive math and computer science lessons designed to be done in 15-minute chunks, making it a great replacement for your Twitter/X habit. Or there is Wonderium which offers courses on various subjects. (This is the streaming service provided by the company that created the great courses.) You can also check out various online classes that are really worth taking, including MasterClass, Skillshare, and Coursera. All offer online lessons and classes on almost any subject you can imagine.

And there are programs for learning music. There are programs for learning meditation. There are also apps that can help you learn about the world around you: for example, Merlin Bird ID can help you identify what bird is currently singing outside your window. And don’t forget, there are a variety of free digital resources you can find at the library.

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