For the past two years, I’ve made a concerted effort to reduce screen time on a daily basis. I’ve given dozens of tips and tricks a try, and a handful stand out as honestly helpful! Technically screen time is considered TV, laptop, tablets, and phones, but what bothers me most is the amount of time I spend every day staring at my phone. Swiping (not that kind), scrolling, single thumb typing.
When I Realized It Was Time to Reduce Screen Time
I mean it when I say I’ve been trying to reduce screen time for two years. Two straight years of trying to put my phone down. To scroll less. To text less. To aimlessly browse who knows what less.
It first occurred to me that I really needed to reduce my daily screen time about a month or two into our hospital stay with Olivia. My whole hand had begun to bother me. My thumb, my palm, my wrist hurt. Dull aches. Occasional sharp pains. It didn’t take long to recognize that only my dominant hand hurt. And I quickly connected the dots between the pain and the fact that I was sitting in the hospital on my phone 24/7.
Then shortly after Gemma was born the pain in my dominant hand returned. Only this time it was coupled with de Quervain’s (aka “mommy’s thumb”) and I had a rather heavy baby to hold. So it was not a great time to have an actual physical ailment caused by something as frivolous as all day screen time and unnecessary scrolling.
It’s one thing to lament you spend too much time online. It’s a whole other ball game when you have to admit that you’re physically hindered by such habit.
What Actually Helped Me Reduce Screen Time
My attempts to drastically reduce my daily screen time haven’t always been successful. I can’t sit here today and claim that I rarely reach for my phone. That would be a lie.
But I’ve definitely reduced the amount of time I spend each day on my phone, and these are the tricks that helped me the most.
1. Turn off notifications.
If the thought of turning off notifications for your favorite apps freaks you the eff out, you’re not alone. However, it’s no surprise that if you’re not seeing a new notification every couple of minutes you’ll actually (wait for it) look at your phone less!
Try turning off those pesky push notifications. At this point I’ve turned off push notifications for all of my guilty pleasures, any app that’s messages annoyed me, and even apps that are perfectly harmless, but just unnecessary. I still check email often, and I spend my fair share of time on social media each day. But now I check those apps when I have the urge; they aren’t taunting me with in-my-face beeps and buzzes.
Want to go a step further?
Turn off badge notifications for those apps too. You know how tempting that little red number is… I know you do.
Disclaimer: I do leave badge notifications on for email, phone calls, and text messages.
2. Move the biggest time suck apps to the 2nd or even 3rd screen.
Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t keep dozens of apps neatly organized into folders on your phone’s first screen. Instead, try decluttering your home screen and moving the apps you want to avoid to a 2nd or even 3rd screen.
The simple act of having to swipe once or twice is a surprisingly good deterrent to unnecessary phone time. And if you don’t see the app each time your phone lights up, it’s one less reminder and urge to go check what’s new in the interwebs.
Plus, the simplified home screen is rather calming and the fewer the apps the more you can admire your pretty background.
Here’s what my phone looks like right now. The only apps I keep on my home screen are ones that I use regularly throughout the day. I’ve also vowed to not keep anything on my home screen that I could feel “guilty” about overusing.
3. Go on a deleting spree.
When was the last time you counted the total number of apps on your phone? If you’re anything like me, you tend to install apps left and right. Free app? Sure, I’ll give it a try. But shortly after sign up, you stop using the app and forget it’s even there. Buried somewhere in a folder filled with other no longer used apps.
Deleting old apps and unused apps simply makes you feel good by giving you a clean slate to reduce screen time. Then comes the hard but helpful part: delete apps that you actually do use, but don’t need or want to use.
Want an example? I’ve deleted the Facebook app from my phone many times in the past two years. Sure, it’s there right now. That’s the great thing about this tip: deleting an app doesn’t have to be forever. But it is a surefire way to help you reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone each day. I don’t even want to know how many times I open the Facebook app a day. I scroll for a few minutes, don’t see anything of interest, and put the phone back down. When the app isn’t there? There’s no reason to pick up the phone. When I really needed or wanted to see something on Facebook? I could do so at a time when I was home and near my computer.
The biggest time suck apps are often times just that: time sucks. You will survive a weekend without Facebook on your phone. You may even survive a week, or a month without the app. It doesn’t mean you have to delete your Facebook account. Just give yourself a little break from your phone. Trust me.
4. Create family rules around technology.
Our family needs to get better about this, but the first rule around technology we made was implementing ‘digital free dinners’. This is a big deal in our household, as we’re both techy people with little shame to our face in phone game.
Establishing rules helps keep each other accountable, and I hope to try even more ‘family rules’ to further reduce screen time.
No phones in the bedroom would be awesome, as would phone free evenings, or at least a ‘no phone’ rule for an hour before bedtime.
5. Rely on a smart watch.
I thought including this might be too much, as it implies investing a pretty penny into another device, but the truth is having a FitBit and now an Apple Watch really helped me reduce screen time. My husband bought me a FitBit when we were in the hospital with Olivia, and this Christmas surprised me with an Apple Watch. I thought I’d be into the FitBit for the steps, but I wasn’t. The main reason I loved wearing the FitBit was (1) it gave me a watch! and (2) it allowed me to put my phone away without the fear of missing an important call or text.
Now I wear my Apple Watch every day, and I feel the same way about it as I did my Fitbit. The access to apps is kind of cool. Taking calls on it has actually been more handy than I expected. But the main reasons I love it are (1) it’s a watch! (2) I use Siri all the time now. (3) I can put my phone away without having to miss important calls or texts.
So those are the simple tips that have helped me reduce screen time over the past couple of years. Slowly but surely, folks!
If you have another tip, please share it in the comments! Help us all out with your ways!