It’s pretty amazing what we can do with our phones, right? There’s pretty much an app for everything and if it doesn’t exist, it’s probably in the making! However, we can’t ignore the dark side of technology. Eyestrain, blurred vision, neck pain, back pain, reduced sleep quality are all very real consequences of too much screen time. So, how do we fight the addictive nature of our phones and reduce screen time? Here are seven practical ways to spend less time on your phone and more time in the real world.
Use Screen Time or Similar App to Reduce Screentime
Awareness is the first step to implementing real change, so begin by familiarising yourself with the numbers. Apple’s Screen Time gives you daily and weekly activity reports showing you the total time spent in each app and how often you pick up your iPhone or iPad.
It can be pretty confronting, but it can help you set realistic goals around reducing your screen time. This can also help you decide what notifications to turn off and what apps require daily limits. A compounding benefit of limiting notifications is that you’ll also save phone battery life. Who need’s portable power banks anyways?
Ultimately, the goal is to shift from mindless scrolling to more mindful usage of your smartphone.
Go to Settings > Screen Time. You can set realistic limits based on your current usage.
Turn off most notifications
Whether you’re having lunch with a friend, brainstorming ideas for a project or completing a task at work, a buzzing phone will inevitably rip you away from the present moment and disrupt your flow.
How many times have you picked up your phone after hearing or seeing a notification pop up and 30 minutes later, you’re still on your phone… Was the notification that important? Probably not, but you took the bait anyway. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
The good news is that with a few decisive taps, you can say goodbye to these productivity-killing distractions.
Reduce the number of times you pick up your phone by disabling notifications for most of your apps. Just subscribe to the important ones, like messages and phone calls. However, if you want to be fully present with the people you’re with or you want to stay focused at work.
Reduce your reliance on digital tools
Although you may set out with the intention to plan and organise your week using the calendar on your phone, we can’t ignore the fact that your phone is also an infinite source of distractions.
The real question you need to ask yourself is how much of my allocated planning time is accidentally spent scrolling various feeds?
If you’re eager to reduce your reliance on digital tools and reclaim your time, try switching to a 2020 diary to organise your week.
Analogue tools have their benefits too, you know? Did you know that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down?
Plus, the satisfaction of ticking off your tasks just can’t be replicated on a keyboard or a touch screen.
Activating Grayscale can help reduce the appeal of apps like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat that eat most of your time. The neuron-stimulating colours are what draw you in, so removing arguably the most addictive element is a total gamechanger. In addition to this, grey-scale massively reduces the amount of blue light emitted from your phone screen.
Without it, the content you’re viewing is a lot less interesting which means you’re less motivated to check your phone and therefore less likely to find yourself in digital rabbit holes every hour of the day.
You can easily implement this on an iPhone—go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Colour Filters. Turn this setting on.
Keep it out of sight
Forget trying to exercise self-control in the moment. It’s a waste of energy. Focus your energy instead on optimising your home and work environment by reducing your exposure to negative cues.
If you’re trying to reduce screen time in the evening or wanting to eliminate distractions during your most productive hours of the day, try putting your phone in a different room, where it is completely out of sight.
The fact is, your behaviour is largely influenced by the environment you’re in and the things you’re exposed to, so the best way to alleviate mindless scrolling is to literally remove the “trigger” AKA your phone.
Eliminate boredom with off-screen hobbies
Every habit, good or bad, addresses a certain need in your life. This means your phone habits might just be a subconscious response to boredom.
If this resonates with you, consider trying some off-screen hobbies like playing an instrument, joining a sports team, reading, drawing, painting or baking to alleviate boredom. There are countless ways to entertain yourself off-screen.
Go one better and surround yourself with people who are equally committed to reducing their screen time. This is all about leveraging social norms. New habits seem much more achievable when you are surrounded by people already doing them because it normalises the behaviour.
Reward your efforts
And no, not with more screen time!
Rewards teach you what habits are worth remembering in the future. They reinforce your habits. In order to reinforce this new behaviour which might be 1.5 hours of daily screen time (on your smartphone), select a reward you can enjoy every day you satisfy your screen time limits.
This might be a healthy treat in the evening or simply ticking it off on a habit tracker and seeing that visual display of your progress.
Just ensure the rewards you choose are aligned with your goals, values and the person you want to become. For example, rewarding yourself with more time on another screen (TV or laptop) is not ideal if you’re trying to curb your smartphone/technology addiction.
There you have it—seven simple and practical ways to reduce your screen time and fight your smartphone addiction. Remember to be kind to yourself and practise self-compassion, especially on the days you exceed the screen time limits you’ve imposed. Implementing new habits is a process and setbacks are a natural part of progression, so be patient with yourself and avoid the “all or nothing” mentality. If you slip up, instead of abandoning your screen-time goals, try again tomorrow. You’ve got this!