This time-locking safe is a 'Shark Tank' favorite and I can see why — it helps me manage bad phone habits

The author scrolls on his phone, and the phone is in the Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container.
Erin Brains and James Brains/Insider

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  • With apps vying to dominate our focus, many of us spend too much time staring at our phones.
  • The kSafe is a time-locking safe that breaks you from the habit of staring at your phone.
  • It can also be used for other items, including food, video game controllers, and money.

Through documentaries like "The Social Dilemma" and countless scientific studies, it's become clear that social media and other apps are designed to monopolize our attention. But what can we do about it?

Johann Hari provides several solutions in his book "Stolen Focus." Among them is a time-locking safe. This intrigued me, so I tested one that was featured on the entrepreneurial TV show "Shark Tank," the Kitchen Safe, also known as "kSafe." 

I found kSafe did a good job of breaking me from my endless scrolling so I could pay more attention to my loved ones. Below are the details of my experience.

I catch myself mindlessly scrolling on my phone, ignoring loved ones, and getting increasingly anxious.

The author scrolls on his phone while making a face of mild disgust.
Erin Brains/Insider

Enter the time-locking kSafe to save the day. It comes in three sizes: mini, medium, and X-large.

The three different sizes of Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container are displayed with a banana in each.
The bananas are roughly the same size to give you some idea of each kSafe’s size: from left, mini, medium, and X-large.
James Brains/Insider

All three sizes are 5.5 inches square in depth and width, but they vary in height. The interior of the mini container is 2 inches high, the medium is 5.5 inches high, and the extra-large is 10.4 inches. There are clear and white container options, and the lids come in several colors, including green, red, and blue. Each safe works on two AA batteries that come with the unit.

The mini was too small to hold my Samsung Galaxy S10+ phone. I recommend purchasing the extra-large kSafe since it's only $10 more than the other two sizes, and you never know what you might want to store in it.

Simply put the lid on, select how long you want it to lock, and press the dial.

The screen of the Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container shows a time of 0 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes, and 0 seconds.
James Brains/Insider

The lid works in any orientation, so you don't have to worry about the locking tabs lining up when you put the lid on. To set the time, you turn the dial on the lid. Once you have the time you want, press the dial. Then you have a five-second countdown in case you change your mind. If you don't press the dial again, the safe will lock, and the contents will be inaccessible until the time is up.

When I notice that looking at my phone is stressing me out or distracting me from spending quality time with my family, I pop it in the kSafe.

A black phone sits at an angle in the Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container.
James Brains/Insider

I try to limit my phone use after work. I usually have no trouble unplugging, but there are other days when my phone is seemingly attached to my hand. As soon as I recognize that my phone is monopolizing my attention, I lock it up. I usually just set the kSafe for 30 to 60 minutes. That's enough time for the phone-scrolling urge to pass. In fact, after the safe unlocks, I usually just leave my phone in it until bedtime.

You can put objects in there for up to 10 days. My kid put their lemonade stand money in for 5 days.

A child stares at the cash-filled Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container.
James Brains/Insider

I don't recommend putting objects in the kSafe for longer than a couple of hours because you can't use it for other items during that time. Still, a long lock-up helped my kid reduce their urge to spend their money immediately after making it.

I couldn't find a way to hack it.

A screwdriver is pushed between the lid and the container of the Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container, causing the container to crack.
My attempt at using a screwdriver to bust into the kSafe only made me look foolish.
James Brains/Insider

I tried a variety of ways to hack the kSafe. You can only add time to it, not take it away. If you remove the batteries, the timer stops, and the lid stays locked. I read that you could use a screwdriver or knife to pop one of the locking tabs out to get in without breaking the container. However, when I tried, I broke the container. My conclusion: The only way to get into the safe before time runs out is to break the container, and replacement containers cost $27 to $37.

It's not good for securing valuables, but it's a great deterrent from using items you want to avoid.

Video game controllers and a Nintendo Switch are displayed in the X-large Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container.
I fit four gaming controllers and a Nintendo Switch in the X-large kSafe.
James Brains/Insider

I've tested several home safes, and the kSafe was easier to break into than most others I've tested. But the kSafe isn't designed for home security. It's meant for breaking habits. I found it did an excellent job of this. 

I found it was an effective tool for breaking my infinite scrolling, so I can focus on what matters most: living my best life.

A phone is displayed in the Kitchen Safe kSafe Time Locking Container, and the author sits on a bench with his son in a large observatory.
James Brains and Erin Brains/Insider

While overall I think the kSafe is pricey, that's the point. You'd be tempted to bust it open if it were cheap.

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