So you want to spend less time on your phone, but you're not totally keen on downloading another app to manage your time, and you always bypass the screen limits (I'm guilty of that far too often). And it's a common dilemma.
In fact, after teasing a close friend, she told me, "My screen time is between me and God." Here are a few tips, tricks, and even things that haven't worked, to help you step away from the phone.
Know Where You're Starting
It might sting! You might see 10 hours, you might see 6 hours, you might see 3 hours - whatever it is, you're looking for a way to cut down on how much you're using your phone. According to a 2022 study from DataReportal on screen time use - an adult's average phone screen time is nearly seven hours per day. But however much time it is, it doesn't matter. The first step to cutting back is knowing your own use.
Not berating yourself is the second step to starting your journey on using your phone less. You'll have victories and probably setbacks; what's important is that you get to start over each day. Each hour. Each minute.
Be realistic about where you're starting. If you're using Facebook for 3 hours a day, don't suddenly expect to only use it 30 minutes tomorrow.
Think About Turning Off Your Phone Notifications
Once you open your phone, there's a good chance you're going to start with that bubble and then bounce around to a few apps. Turning off notifications that aren't important or using do not disturb keeps you from picking up your phone in the first place.
Use The Tools Your Phone Has
Literally, use your phone's tools to your advantage. Smartphones have all sorts of ways to help you monitor your screen time and limit use on apps. Of course, you can also download apps which are great for those who thrive when gamifying tasks in life.
Gray Is the New Black
Go grayscale! Make the phone less appealing by going black, white, and gray so the images that you're scrolling past aren't as interesting to your eye and brain.
Cut Back on Phone Use One App At a Time
Don't go cold turkey - that's going to make the process that much more painful and even make you want to give up altogether. Start by one app or website at a time. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Delete the Apps
Sure, you can still log in to check your social media by plugging it into that tiny URL bar on your phone, but it's going to be a lot more of a hassle and, hopefully, lose some of its appeal. As for the other apps, use your laptop instead! Sure, those games may not be as exciting, but it's a good time to sharpen those solitaire or sudoku skills. Ultimately, with real cards or a booklet - but baby steps first!
Take your messaging to a different platform. Skip the Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp on your phone and instead use your laptop! For Apple users with MacBooks, take your iMessage to the big-little screen and send messages using your computer.
Move Your Phone Apps Around
Replace TikTok or Instagram with your Kindle or library app. Instead of Facebook, pop in Duolingo or another educational app. Break the routine by not being able to return to your usual apps without even thinking.
Designate Social Media-Free Time
Go ahead, read the paper, carry on a long text conversation, read your emails. But just skip the social media. It doesn't need to be all day; it doesn't even need to be a full hour. Start with 20 minutes and eventually work your way up to a whole day of no social media. Inevitably, the social media apps won't have such a strong hold over your fingers and time.
Schedule Phone-Free Time
Schedule your phone-free hours! And stick to the routine. Skip your phone completely! Leave it in the kitchen, leave it upstairs, leave it in the basement, leave it under your mattress. You don't need to walk away for long, but start with a small window and work up until your phone isn't on the brain.
Spend Less Time on Your Phone By Asking Yourself "Why"
Whatever app you're opening, think about why. Are you opening your Insta feed because you're bored? Procrastinating? Or are you opening it to take a peek at your favorite food account?
Use your apps with intention. Make your screen time productive, by popping into GoodReads to see what new releases you're excited about or read that latest Times article. Take a pause before you open your phone or use an app. Count to five, count to ten, but take a moment to detach from the technology and anchor into reality.
Think about how you'd rather spend your time instead of being on your phone. Wish you'd read that book before it needed to be returned to the library? Use that feeling to remind yourself when you want to put your phone down.
Enlist a Buddy to Help You Spend Less Time on Your Phone
Have an accountability buddy or accountabilibuddy to check in with. Maybe don't spend a lot of time texting, but you sure can pick up the phone or go retro with good-old fashioned email.
Modify Your Smart Watch Notifications
From the classic Apple Watch to a FitBit or Garmin, you get a lot of alerts. Tailor the alerts so you aren't tempted to see what's what. And if you can't leave your watch behind, disconnect it from your phone completely.
Lower Your Phone Time by Not Multitasking
It's tempting to scroll through your phone while you're waiting for your water to boil, when the coffee line is moving far too slow, or you've decided to spend a self-care day in bed rewatching the same show for the 14th time.
But, slowly and surely, take a little longer to pull your phone out. Look at it for a little less time, until eventually you're ready to be where you are. Fully.
Set Phone-Free Zones or Make Up Silly Phone Use Rules
Whether you decide to use a phone-free zone or you can only scroll freely while you're pacing or standing on one leg, do whatever it takes to make the habit a little more complicated.
As for the physical boundaries, the shower is no place for your phone. Of course, you're looking for the right tunes or the right podcast, but make that choice before getting in. And maybe use a speaker instead.
Use Do Not Disturb Features to Your Advantage
Ever since I started putting my phone on Do Not Disturb from 10pm to 10am, it has changed my life. I'm not tempted to see what every buzz is while I'm winding down, nor do I jump to see what's happening each morning.
Instead, I do a quick sweep for any messages or missed calls. The apps can wait until breakfast. And put your phone down during breakfast, too.
Try Phone-Free Mornings and Nights
Skip the apps and the phone once you know everything is alright in your world. Don't drag it from the coffee maker to the toaster to the table.
Listen to Your Music and Podcasts Elsewhere
Use your computer or a speaker to listen to your music, so you won't spend as much time bouncing around apps to decide on just what you're in the mood for.
Charge Your Phone in an Inconvenient Place
Don't charge your phone next to you. Instead, charge your phone in a far corner of your home. Charge it on the kitchen counter while you're in the living room watching tv. Charge it in the bedroom if you're in the kitchen.
Some people have found great success at charging their phone some place other than their bedroom at night. However, another option is to charge it in a place you cannot reach from your bed.
Decide What It Is You Do Want From Your Phone
When you're on a diet, all you think about is what you can't have, and a phone diet or phone fast is no different. Instead of looking at what you don't want to use your phone for, think about how you do want to use it.
Freedom From Your Phone Without the Pain
Put down the phone and step back into your life. You don't need to start by jumping in with both feet; you can slowly wade into the river that is your life of freedom from your reliance on your phone. Welcome to having extra time on your hands.