An image depicts a phone with an hourglass backdrop, apps trickling through its center. The past year has seen our collective screen time skyrocket, the reasons for which are well-known and need no detailed explanation here.
If you aspire to curb the hours you dedicate to staring at screens, whether on your phone, desktop, or gaming device, here are several practical and effective steps to help you begin your journey towards reduced screen time.
Monitor and Quantify Your Screen Time
The first step towards managing your screen time is understanding the extent of your usage. Most people underestimate the time they dedicate to screens, both within and beyond work hours.
Platforms like iOS, Mac, and Android come equipped with built-in tools—namely Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing—that provide a detailed analysis of your screen time, breaking it down by the type of apps you use the most.
Setting up on iOS Navigate to Settings > Screen Time. Select Turn On Screen Time > Continue. If you’re setting up Screen Time for yourself, select This is My iPhone. If you’re setting it up for your child, select This is My Child’s iPhone. Follow the on-screen prompts.
For Android Navigate to Settings. Select Digital Wellbeing & parental controls. If you’re tracking your personal screen time, select Digital Wellbeing. If you’re monitoring your child’s screen time, select Parental Controls.
For users of Windows or Linux, several third-party apps like ActivityWatch, an open-source alternative to standard time-tracking apps, are available.
By systematically tracking your screen time, perhaps even comparing it weekly, you might be startled by the number of hours you’ve been dedicating to your digital devices.
Implement a Screen Limit or Timer
If your time-tracking apps reveal you’re spending upwards of ten hours daily on your personal devices, it could be the perfect opportunity to consider implementing a limit on your app usage.
Time provides an option to restrict time spent on the most time-consuming apps, likely to include social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. On both Mac and iOS devices, a warning screen appears when you exceed your designated limit. However, it does provide you with the chance to extend your time by 15 minutes or to ignore the limit completely.
Wellbeing app on Android is stricter, locking your app immediately after you surpass the limit. The only way to unlock it is to completely disable the timer. Linux users can experiment with elementaryOS, which includes a component to curtail time spent on specific apps. Microsoft Windows offers Parental Controls, where you can apply screen limits.
Continuous buzzing from messaging apps and social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram can significantly hamper your focus. Apart from switching on Do Not Disturb or Focus Assist to mute general notifications, you can customize your settings to control which apps send you notifications and the duration they remain on the screen.
Experiment with Grayscale iOS and Android both allow you to convert your phone’s display into grayscale, which reportedly makes your device less appealing to engage with, consequently helping you reduce your device use.
To activate this on iOS and Apple devices, navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Color Filters. From here, you can enable the Grayscale option.
Android users can also activate grayscale by accessing the Digital Wellbeing app and enabling Wind Down. You can either activate Grayscale immediately or schedule it for later. On Windows, you can activate grayscale by pressing CTRL + Windows Key + C, and on Linux, you can consider installing Desaturate All to acquire a less vibrant interface.
Eliminate (or Conceal) Time-Consuming Apps on Your Phone
Do you find yourself predominantly using your screen time for online shopping or aimlessly scrolling through social media apps? A straightforward way to reduce your screen time is to eradicate apps to which you find yourself addicted. You can always access their web versions when necessary, even after deleting the apps.
Not only does removing your apps free up your time, but it also simplifies your device. Additionally, eliminating certain apps can significantly enhance your privacy. You don’t need to wait until the new year to give your phone a fresh start.
Unwilling to delete your apps entirely? A minimum step would be to hide the apps you wish to avoid using so that they are not immediately visible on your home screen. Out of sight often leads to out of mind!
There are various ways to hide an app. The simplest method is to move it from the home screen into a separate folder. On certain Samsung devices, you can reposition the apps you wish to avoid into a built-in Secure folder.
Embrace Offline Activities
While it can be challenging to take a break from our screens, carving out time for offline activities can provide your eyes with a well-deserved rest.
On weekdays, engage in routine activities like grocery shopping or working out at the gym. On weekends, opt for more leisurely activities such as shopping at malls, going for hikes, or indulging in a massage. The key is to find activities that are more appealing than continuously swiping on your phone.
Establish Device-Free Zones
Creating device-free zones can be an effective strategy for gradually reducing your screen time. By silencing your phone and placing it on the opposite side of the room (or in a different room entirely), you can concentrate on your work without the interruption of notifications or other mobile distractions.
Winding down before sleep? Banish your phone from the bedroom. This strategy reduces blue light exposure at night and provides a more restful night’s sleep. When your alarm sounds in the morning, you will also be less likely to hit the snooze button since you’ll be already out of your bedroom turning off the alarm.
Moreover, resist the urge to bring your phone into the bathroom. Planning a jog or a casual walk around the neighborhood? Leave your phone behind—and focus on boosting your heart rate.
Mitigate Video Fatigue
With remote work becoming a new standard, many meetings now occur in a virtual context to accommodate individuals from across the globe. However, video calls demand excessive screen time, leading to video fatigue. To mitigate this, aim to restrict yourself to approximately three video calls per day, each lasting no more than an hour.
Discover a New Hobby
Embark on a new hobby you’ve always yearned to try. A fascinating project like constructing a Lego set or immersing yourself in a lengthy novel can entertain you for hours. Playing music is also a viable option to relax and pass time. Ideally, the hobby you select doesn’t involve online classes, as that would defeat the purpose! It’s also best if the hobby doesn’t require a computer or a screen. (So, Photoshop courses are off the list.)
Refrain from Eating in Front of a Screen
Turning to your phone for entertainment while eating might feel satisfying and productive, as it allows you to multitask. However, it’s likely to extend your screen time if you’re waiting to conclude a show that you began at the meal’s onset. Moreover, eating in front of a screen can distract from the food you’re consuming, leading to overeating. To reduce screen time, learn to put your device away and practice mindful eating.
Opt to Read a Book Instead of Reading on Your Phone
This tip seems obvious, but its importance cannot be overstated. Reading on your phone can strain your eyes, especially if your profession requires extensive computer use. When using screens, people tend to blink less frequently and view the screen at suboptimal angles. Screens also emit blue light, which can strain your eyes and impede sleep. Give your eyes a respite by selecting printed books, which do not induce computer vision syndrome, a condition characterized by eye problems resulting from computer use.
Limit the Number of Photos You Take
Most of us enjoy documenting our life journey by uploading photos on social media. While many people simply wish to share their cherished moments, others transform it into a quest for the perfect shot, potentially involving hundreds of photos to achieve a mere ten exceptional ones. And if you habitually edit your photos before posting them, it significantly increases the screen time spent on your phone.
The next time you encounter something worthy of a snapshot, capture a few quality shots, then detach from your phone to fully immerse yourself in the experience.
Adjust Your Auto-Lock Settings
Auto-lock settings allow you to establish a timeframe after which your phone will automatically lock its screen if you forget to manually lock it. Certain instances can result in inaccurate screen time data due to auto-lock settings. For instance, if you set your auto-lock to ten minutes, your screen time still counts as such even if you only use your phone for a minute but forget to manually lock it afterward. To maintain an accurate screen time report, set your auto-lock to 30 seconds.
Engage in Conversations with Friends and Family
Messaging apps have made it easier than ever to remain connected with friends and family. Social media updates provide quick insights into the happenings of our loved ones’ lives. However, relying excessively on these tools contributes to increased screen time. To rest your eyes, disconnect from your phone and interact with your friends and family in a real-world setting.
Remove Your Work Email from Your Phone
The convenience of having your work email on your phone ensures you never miss an essential message from your boss, even while on the move. However, this also means extended screen time after a full day at the office. Moreover, studies have demonstrated that checking work emails beyond work hours can induce stress and anxiety. For improved wellbeing, remove your work email from your phone and defer tomorrow’s work until tomorrow.
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Minimize unnecessary exposure to notifications by disabling the “Raise to Wake” feature on iPhones. Opt for a more intentional approach to accessing information on your device, reducing impulsive screen interactions.