If you are reading this, there is a decent chance you are viewing it on your smart phone. The likelihood is also high that you have a love/hate relationship with this silky smooth glowing box or at a minimum want to reduce your daily usage. Our phones, the connection to the world outside our home, can be a MAJOR time suck if not kept in check. A single impulsive tap and you are sucked into a social media app or a conversation you hadn’t planned to have. You look up a half hour later and wonder how it is already time to make dinner. The desire to “check” for calls and messages started for some of us nearly 2 decades ago. Those habits have been made worse by the phones growing capabilities. Not only are we communicating on them, they act as our our watch, cookbook, map, etc. They are literally designed to capture and keep our attention.
In recent years we have started to see the harm. We have read reports of child neglect due to phone usage/gaming, vision and sleep disruption, addictions, marital problems, growing suicide rates for teens, etc. But they can also save lives. They can record crimes, call 911, find lifesaving information at the click of a button. If you saw the Netflix documentary titled A Social Dilemma, you are now (if you weren’t before) aware of the concerns regarding social media use. So whats a person to do? There has to be a middle ground. The technology is amazing, so how do we best manage it and use it without it using us?
Here are some ways that you can reduce your screen time (some more extreme than others). I have implemented many of these over the years to dramatically decrease my phone time. I hope a few of these strategies help you.
Turn off Notifications – Go into your settings RIGHT NOW and turn the notifications off for all of the apps you don’t need real-time notifications for. No, you really don’t need to know the second someone tags you in a photo or when your new batch of gems have arrived in Mining Town (is that a thing? I think I just made that up). Turn them off. You will likely still be drawn to the apps anyway and can see whats there when you eventually open the app – at an appropriate time – not during your dinner party.
Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ apps – Got an app you can’t delete? Maybe work requires you to have access to your email from mobile but you prefer to only check it 3 times a day from your desktop. Throw that app into a folder on the last screen of your phone. Should you really need it, it will be there and you will be less likely to impulsively check throughout the day or on your lunch break.
Delete the apps that you don’t want to use – If its not on your phone you wont be tempted. You can still access most things on your desktop when necessary.
Focus on What You Do Want – Move the apps you want to use more often to front and center. I moved all the “time suck” apps to the last page and into a folder on my phone. That includes the web browser (gasp). Now, I have only the apps that align with current goals on the front page. My health app, my e-reader, Podcasts, Music, finance apps, and the Camera. Having healthier apps on the front page reminds me that I want to start my day with my audiobook, not surfing through Instagram. Starting the day with social media can be a great way to kill creativity. Instead of feeling refreshed and happy, you risk beginning your day with negativity and getting roped into in an endless scrolling pattern.
There’s an app for that – Use the screen time feature or another app on your device to set limits. This is a great way to learn your history and try to reach goals for the future. It can be eye opening to see where we spend the most time on our devices.
Have a “home” for your phone – If you work outside of the home, home time is family time. Put your phone in a basket or one location. If you need your phone, you know where to find it. Your phone is in its home resting and you are in your home resting, away from the screen.
Talk to your partner or another person to help hold you accountable and help stick to your goals. It’s also often nice to mention your reduced screen times to loved ones so they are aware of when you are unavailable or that it might take a little longer than usual to respond to their messages.
Get Outside – being outdoors and doing outdoorsy things is a great distraction and way to get away from your phone and feel amazing doing it. Often you will get so swept up in the activity you won’t realize how long it’s been since you last picked it up. Who doesn’t feel better after getting some fresh air?
Delete Games – mostly these are a time suck. You might say, “oh, but it helps me relax and unwind at the end of the day”. Yea maybe, but more often than not they are abused and distract us from a lot of other rewarding, meaningful and relaxing activities. Some of them even cost us tons of money, getting us even further from our goals for the future!
Move Your Charger – Charge your phone somewhere other than your bedside at night. And never sleep with your phone. The alarm clock works even better if you have to leave the bed to turn it off anyway. Additionally, if you use airplane mode at night, you wont get woken by a phone call or text and you avoid EMF exposure while you sleep.
Smart Watches – Use an Apple Watch or other device if you cant miss calls. Yes, this is tech, so it’s not the perfect solution for everyone, but there are some pros. For me half my phone pickups are to check the time. A quarter are to check for messages. An Apple Watch frees me from carrying my phone at all. If you check your phone a ton just for the time and it’s a gateway for you, consider an old school wristwatch.
Silence your phone – Turn phone on silent mode when you aren’t working. Or all the time if you can manage it. I’ve had my phone set on silent for four years. It’s really fine. If i’m expecting an important work call, I can usually hear it vibrate (or feel it in my bag), but it’s much less obnoxious than a ringtone. Most things in life are not so urgent you can’t give someone a ring back and texts can almost wait for a response. The instant response/ constant demand for our attention is new phenomenon and a lot of pressure to always be at the beck and call of others.
Limit posting on social media as it usually draws you to the app more frequently.
Use fewer social media sites – deactivate the ones that no longer serve you.
Go old school – This is probably the most extreme, aside from ditching a phone all together, but switching from a smart phone back to a basic flip phone can not only can save you money but can save you phone time by eliminating all those tempting apps. You will still be able to text and take calls.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you achieve your goals of limiting your phone usage or minimizing screen time in general. If you have any you would like to share, leave a comment for others to see.