Simple Ways to Reduce Screen Time – But Only If You Want To
People are spending an average of 24 hours every single week online and, with the introduction of the Screen Time feature in IOS and similar apps available for Android, we are becoming more aware of our personal number. What has been interesting to observe is how people are responding to this new awareness. I have seen people compete with themselves, and others, to reduce their screen time. Others have admitted to feeling guilty about the amount of time they spend on their smartphone. If you enjoy spending 3 hours a day on your phone, and it’s not interfering with your relationships, health or work then park the guilt. If you enjoy “wasting” this time, is it really time wasted?
On the other hand, if you have been trying to improve an area of your personal or professional life without success then it may be a good idea to see if you can swap the screen for something else. The following suggestions are easy to implement, can be temporary or permanent, and are completely open to be changed to suit your life.
Reducing time spent on my smartphone will allow me to _____: Knowing why you want to spend less time on your phone is the first, and most important, thing you can do to make a change. Without this, there is little motivation to take it any further. Are you looking to find more time in your day? Perhaps you are looking to clear space in your head? Whatever it is, identifying how reducing time spent on your smartphone will help you achieve your goal is a key step.
Only keep apps that spark joy: Yes, I’m a Marie Kondo fan and I think this approach will work just as well on your smartphone as in your home! If there are apps that you no longer use, or leave you in a negative space then simply delete. There was a time in your life when you used them, but that time is not now. Remember this is not permanent; you can always download the app again in the future if you want. Clearing out your app space is a quick and easy way to begin creating more space in the mind.
Wear a watch: If you wear a watch then you can use it to check the time instead of checking it on your phone. If you don’t pull out your phone to check the time then you aren’t pulled into an app. Simple.
Embrace the “two tap barrier”: For apps that have a decent browser alternative, like Facebook and Twitter, delete the app and use the browser to access it on your smartphone. For apps like Instagram that don’t work well on a browser, move them into a folder. When you go to access these sites, you will have to tap, and think, twice to get there. Sometimes you will do it and others times you’ll put the phone down and decide to leave it until later.
Choose your notifications – don't let them choose you: A personal peeve of mine is when my phone decides what I want to know and when. I made the mistake of deleting all notifications, which led to me obsessively checking my phone multiple times an hour in case I missed something. A better approach is to choose what you want to be notified about and how you want to be notified. You can then leave the phone where it is, knowing that you will be alerted if something which you decide is important comes through. The single best thing I did regarding notifications is to disable them for WhatsApp group messages, leaving them on for individual messaging.
Wearing a watch, the two tap barrier and managing notifications all help to reduce the mindless picking up of the smartphone, and the minutes that evaporate as a result. These minutes all add up so now it’s time to do something with them.
Make time for the change you want to make: Knowing that you are going to have all those extra minutes, plan time for the change you want to make. If it’s losing weight, you might set aside time to prepare healthy meals or work out. If it’s learning a new skill, you may be looking for a course that will help. If it’s brightening up your headspace then you may be setting time aside for daily affirmations or interrupted, positive “me” time. Whatever it is you are looking to achieve, plan it in to your week. Check out this guide to Getting Things Done if you are looking for some more tips on this.
Make time for screen time in your day: This may seem contradictory but allowing yourself some dedicated, guilt free time means that it is less likely to leak into other parts of the day. Remember you have already prioritised time for the changes you want to make, so this is secondary. I happily spend 30 minutes each morning with a cup of tea and my phone, and curl up with it for another while in the evening. During the day, I respond to the notifications I get when I’m not busy doing something else. Some days it adds up to an hour, other days it’s more and I never feel bad about it.
Often it may feel like this world is a pressure cooker, with no time allowed to let out the steam. Whether you do it by getting lost in your smartphone or by putting it down to do something more important to you right now, that is your choice. Embrace time your way, for your life.
As always, I love to hear other people’s ideas, tips and tricks so please leave a comment below if you found this helpful or would like to share anything.
Niamh specialises in career and personal effectiveness coaching with a particular focus on career advancement and time management. You can contact Niamh here if you are considering a coach in these areas.
“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” - Marthe Troly-Curtin