How to Reduce Your Screen Time

I’m not quite sure when it happened.

But somehow, we’ve become addicted to our phones and began to treat technology as a necessity instead of a tool. We spend hours upon hours on our devices, patiently waiting for that next notification to give us a spike of serotonin. But are we missing out on all that life has to offer by staring at our screens 24/7?

While technology has brought a lot into our world, it’s also distracted us from focusing on what matters most. We’ve neglected hobbies that we are truly passionate about and have put a wedge in our productivity and relationships. It’s time to regain control over our lives.

Here are 10 ways to cure your phone addiction and reduce your screen time:

  1. Delete social media apps from your phone. While social media is a great way to keep up with friends and family and stay in tune with what’s going on in the world, but we don’t need it at our fingertips every single second of the day. Most of the time, I don’t have social media apps installed on my phone. I still have accounts to all of the popular sites (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) but will only download them onto my phone when absolutely necessary, say if I want to post a story on Instagram. Otherwise, I limit all of my social media usage to my computer and it significantly reduces the amount of time I spend mindlessly scrolling.
  2. Refrain from using your phone for at least 1 hour in the morning. No matter what time you wake up, and even if you don’t consider yourself to be a morning person, staying away from your phone for the first hour of your day can greatly improve your productivity. Whether you’re waking up at 6am or 10am, reserve the first hour of your day for highly focused tasks. Figure out how you can customize your morning routine to suit your goals.
  3. Reduce your everyday carry by leaving your phone at home, sometimes. In the past decade, we’ve developed an unintentional habit of always bringing our phones with us whenever we leave the house. While there are times that we will definitely need our phones for going out such as to use Google Maps or text a friend that we’ve arrived at our meeting spot, it’s not always necessary and can add unnecessary complexities to your daily tasks. For example, if I have to quickly stop by the nearby grocery store to pick up just a few items, there is no legitimate reason that I need to take my phone. Sure, I might become bored waiting in the checkout line and not have my phone to distract me, but I’ll only be gone for less than 20 minutes and I can remember all of the items I need without a list on my phone. In situations like this, your phone is an extra item that you have to keep track of and carry around which could add unnecessary stress and time to your daily activities.
  4. Give your phone a home. Whenever you are at home, have a spot for your phone to live, just like you have a spot where you keep your silverware and shoes. I’ll admit I’m not always the best at doing this, but I try to keep my phone in the closet when I’m at home and only pull it out if I need to use it for something, especially during times I am in deep work. Eliminating the visual distraction of you phone will force you to consciously think about when you might need to use it and remove it from its home. This can be extremely difficult at first, so I suggest starting by putting your phone in its home when you are about to enter periods of work where a high level of focus is required.
  5. Remove notifications. The only notifications I have on my phone are for calls and messages. Even when I have a social media app installed on my phone, I never turn on notifications because I’ve found it to be an additional distraction that interrupts my work flow. Nothing on my phone is urgent and can wait until the next time I check my phone to be dealt with. Some apps such as Uber and Yelp will have notifications that provide absolutely no value and should never be turned on since the benefits of receiving the notification does not outweigh the distraction it imposes on your productivity.
  6. Engage in weekly digital resets. Setting aside a full day each week to disconnect is extremely important for keeping technology in its place. Our phones can serve us well, being great tools that enhance many aspects of our lives, but we have to be careful not to give them too much power. Spending one day a week where you substantially lower or fast altogether from your phone or all technology will allow you cherish the benefits that your phone brings you while also admiring other aspects of a digital free world. I try to do this on Sundays where I limit all technology use–I’ve attempted an entirely screen less Sunday–and something I deeply enjoyed, but it’s not practical for me to engage in fully every week. In turn, I limit my use of my phone and computer on Sundays significantly, allowing myself to reset and prepare for the upcoming week.
  7. Keep your phone out of the bedroom. It’s easy to become guilty of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or refreshing your email while lying in bed–both immediately before going to sleep or right after waking up. In order to combat losing these precious minutes that you could be sleeping and becoming more well-rested, keep your phone out of the bedroom. Plug your phone in at night in the kitchen, way out of reach once you decide it’s time for bed. This can be a problem for some people if you typically use your phone as an alarm clock, but it is worth the $20 investment to buy a physical independent alarm clock. I’ve been sleeping without my phone in the room for quite some time now, and it has drastically improved my mental health by eliminating the stress of social media or email late at night as well as starting my morning off on the right foot.
  8. Set screen time goals. Every Sunday, I await the daunting screen time report. My screen time recently has inevitably increased since starting a YouTube channel and using my phone to record the videos, so I have to look more deeply into the specific apps that I spent time on to see if I spent unnecessary time on my phone. I don’t set limits to productive apps that I use such as the camera, photos, and note-taking apps because they enhance my productivity. But I do set screen time goals for apps that are not as necessary and more for personal enjoyment such as Strava and Yelp. Your screen time goals will be specific to you and your lifestyle, depending on which apps you consider necessary to your work, so the weekly report from Apple might not fully capture how much mindless time you spent on your phone this week.
  9. Replace your phone time with enriching activities. You would be surprised what you can accomplish or enjoy without your phone. I learned this on my screen less Sunday experiment when I refrained from using any technology for 24 hours–I got so much done and appreciated the little things in life much more. While I missed the everyday conveniences that my phone brought, I filled my time with enriching activities that brought me happiness and joy. Spend more time with your friends, family, kids, grandparents, coworkers, and I guarantee that you will feel more fulfilled than if you spent that same amount of time staring at your little tiny screen. In addition to more personal time, dragging yourself away from your phone can free up time for you to pick up a new hobby. Maybe you want to learn how to play golf, a new language, or how to play the guitar. Engaging in and succeeding in learning this new hobby will ultimately provide you will more satisfaction than you phone ever could.
  10. Change your mindset about your phone. Start by telling yourself that you don’t need your phone by your side at all times to survive (which you don’t, by the way) and you will begin to regain control of your life. Reframe your mindset to center around your phone being a tool that can sometimes enhance or elevate your experience of how you life life, but there are also others ways to feel fulfilled. This will be difficult at first, given how attached we all are to your devices, but it will prove greatly beneficial in the end.

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