E14 - Attention to Internal Triggers: [The Happiness Checklist]

How your emotions drive your screen time.

Hi everyone,

My name is Lemmy and this is my story of how I became The Attention Master.

In Episode 14, I want to teach you how your screen time and your emotions are connected to each other.

Here is what you are going to learn today:

  • Why screen time is a symptom, not the problem.

  • Why happiness is the antidote to unintentional phone use.

  • A structured definition of happiness.

  • Actionable questions to assess your happiness.

This week’s community challenge

Turn your lock screen into a trigger to reflect on your phone usage.

- Lemmy, the Attention Master

Arthur Brooks is a Harvard professor, Ph.D. social scientist, and #1 bestselling author. He was a guest of Steven Bartlett, host of the Diary of a CEO podcast. Arthur presented a structured way to find out if you are happy or not. Before we explain why this is important to stop wasting time on your phone, please take a moment if you want to test yourself.

From the podcast episode, I created [The Happiness Checklist] for you. The assignment is to write down your answers to the following questions:

  1. Do you lack any of the following? Clean air, enough food, drinkable water, shelter, warmth, sleep, enough sex, health, a job that pays the bills? Yes or No?

  2. Do you fear that you or your loved ones will lose any of these things? Or do you feel that the future for you and your loved ones is uncertain for any reason (e.g. war, climate change, AI, inflation, housing prices)? Yes or No?

  3. Write down all the pleasurable activities you did last week. Ask yourself: How many of them connected me with others or created a lasting memory?

  4. Write down all weekly activities that are challenging and that push your limits. Work doesn't count.

  5. Do you have a general theory or concept of what the world is and what role humans play in it? Yes or No?

  6. Does your life have a purpose, a concrete direction? Yes or No?

  7. Would it matter if you weren't here? Yes or No?

  8. Moral foundation: What are the 3 most important values you live by and expect society to live up to?

  9. Do you have an answer to the question: Why am I alive? Yes or No?

  10. Do you have an answer to the question: What am I willing to die for? Yes or No?

  11. Do you have a daily contemplative routine in which you reflect and look inside yourself, such as meditation, breathing, prayer, or journaling? Yes or No?

  12. Do you read at least 1 hour a week? Not the news, but anything that helps you grow, from philosophy to self-help to inspiration (like biographies). Yes or No?

At the end of this newsletter, you will be able to determine your Happiness Score and understand why it matters. Let's dive in.

1. Screen time is not your problem - Internal triggers are

The key is to understand that screen time is a symptom, not the root cause. The question you need to answer first and foremost, and ideally every time you catch yourself wasting time: "Why am I here right now? What sucked me in?" And the answer is NOT Instagram, Reddit, TikTok, etc.

Yes, these apps are (often) designed to get you hooked because your time is their moneymaker. Fair enough. But WHY you are here is something called "internal triggers". In simple words:

  • Anxiety → Whatsapp

  • Loneliness → Tinder

  • Boredom → Games

  • Stress → TikTok

  • FOMO → Twitter & Instagram

So ask yourself: What makes me feel anxious or lonely? Why am I bored, stressed, etc.?

Write it down and sit with your feelings for just a minute and the urge will go away halfway through. It's a process, there is no magic pill that will fix this in a day.

2. As you reduce your negative feelings, you reduce unwanted screen time

How do you manage to reduce negative emotions? -> Become happier

Surprise, this is also a process and it also has a lot to do with reflection. I have been reading various books on this for years, but last week I was blown away by this conversation:

We all know Maslow's pyramid. Levels 1 & 2, the basic and safety needs, are pretty clear. But when you look at the top 3, no one (to my knowledge) has given an actionable guide on how to get there or how to understand how you score.

Guess what, Arthur did.

He breaks down happiness into 3 pillars. You need:

  • Enjoyment

  • Satisfaction

  • Meaning


  • Add people and memories to pleasure and you get enjoyment.

  • Stuff you do alone: porn, drugs, social media -> addictive because pleasure seeking = dopamine release.

  • Ask yourself: How can I add friends to the things I do alone? e.g. find a friend who watches the same stuff on Netflix so that you can talk about it.


  • The joy you get after a struggle a.k.a. having made an effort.

  • Ask yourself: Do I engage in any activities that are challenging? Where do I enjoy pushing my boundaries?

  • Action Step: Do more challenging activities more often (=frequency).


  • Coherence: Do you have a theory about why things happen?

  • Purpose: Does your life have a concrete direction?

  • Significance: Why would it matter if you weren’t here?

Accoridng to Arthur, 3 YES make you a happier person.

3. Determine your Happiness Score

You should have understood by now where the questions at the beginning of this newsletter came from. Now it's time to see how happy you are.

Check your answers. 1 point per question, 12 points is the maximum:

Question 1: “No” = 1 point
Question 2: “No” = 1 point
Question 3: If you found 2+ activities = 1 point
Question 4: If you identified 2+ weekly moments = 1 point
Question 5: “Yes” = 1 point
Question 6: “Yes” = 1 point
Question 7: “Yes” = 1 point
Question 8: If you wrote down 3 in less than 60 seconds = 1 point
Question 9: If you have an answer, no matter what it is = 1 point
Question 10: If you have an answer, no matter what it is = 1 point
Question 11: “Yes” = 1 point
Question 12: “Yes” = 1 point

Count your points. The closer you get to 12, the more likely you are to be a happy person. Wherever you are missing a point, you now have a starting point to dig deeper.

Disclaimer: Some foundations of Arthur Brooks' framework are Maslow's pyramid and the tribal theory. The tribal theory states that humans, from an evolutionary standpoint, either want to be part of a tribe, or want to be important to the tribe, or both. In some ways, this is at odds with the Buddhist way of life, which claims, for example, that none of us is important, that there is no "greater" purpose, and that the purpose of life is to live (Source). So remember, no framework is complete, and you should always consider multiple perspectives.

4. The Protocol to take ACTION:

It's easiest to think about your negative emotions when they're happening. Most of the time, we don't notice them, in part because they may be so small.

Fortunately, you learned today that they are (almost) always followed by you picking up your phone. So what if you reengineered this behavior and used your phone pick up to reflect on your current emotions and state of mind?

2 ways to do this:

  1. When you unlock your phone -> see my weekly lock screen hack below.

  2. A popup that interrupts your brain's autopilot when you open "useless" apps like Instagram. Obviously, I recommend Lemio here.

Every good action needs a trigger - The lock screen hack

I'm providing a different visual for each community challenge. Add it to your lock screen and you'll see it every time you open your phone.

Then it's your choice: Screen time or life time?

Here's the Episode 14 Visual for DOWNLOAD and below is a video showing you how to add it to your lock screen.

This knowledge comes at 0 cost

If you learned something, be generous
and share it with friends or family.

See ya next week


  • Community Challenge: Turn your lock screen into a trigger to reflect on your phone usage.

  • Screen time is just a symptom.

  • Negative emotions are the triggers to pick up your phone.

  • Sit with your feelings for just a minute and write them down.

  • When your physical and safety needs are met, then Happiness = Enjoyment + Satisfaction + Meaning

  • Enjoyment = Pleasure + People & Memories

  • Satisfaction = Success + Struggle

  • Meaning = Coherence + Purpose + Significance



We know that mastering your attention is extremely difficult. It's not going to happen in a day. That's why we've created Lemio, an app designed to be your personal buddy on the journey.

Subscribe to keep reading

This content is free, but you must be subscribed to Lemio Attention Master to continue reading.

Already a subscriber?Sign In.Not now

Join the conversation

or to participate.