Because there is more to life than TikTok and Twitter

 

Every Sunday, my phone sends me a notification that tells me how much time I spent on my screen that week. It tells me the average time I spent on my phone each day, which apps I used the most and whether my average went up or down from last week.

Screen Time is one of the many tools I use to keep the time spent on my phone in check. Without it, I would fall into the trap of mindless scrolling that always leaves me feeling like a zombie.

While there are numerous benefits to owning a smartphone, they also serve as a distraction. Think of all the times you get bored doing your homework or encounter a bit of writer’s block. It’s likely you picked up your phone instead of pushing through your work. 

Although it often feels impossible, reducing your screen time is not something that is out of reach. From personal experience, I can tell you it’s worth your efforts.

Here are six ways to reduce your screen time. 

 

Set a Goal 

Americans spend an average of 5.4 hours a day on their phones, according to Jovan Milenkovic from Kommando Tech. This is roughly a third of our waking hours! 

If you’re unsure of the amount of time you spend on your phone each day, try downloading an app that tracks usage, or if you own an iPhone, check your screen time in your settings. You might be surprised by what you find.

After figuring out the average amount of time you spend on your phone each day, you can set a goal for how much time you actually want to spend on your phone. A realistic goal I set for myself is two and a half hours or less of screen time each day. Simply remembering my goal when I’m tempted to waste time scrolling through my explore page on Instagram or watching multiple 20-minute videos on Youtube decreases this temptation.

Setting a screen time goal will not only give you something to aim for but also a sense of direction. Identifying what you want your relationship with your phone to look like can help, according to Catherine Price from Time.

“Many people start with a vague goal — ‘I want to spend less time on my phone’ — without specifying what they’re actually trying to change or accomplish, or identifying why they reach for their phones, to begin with,” Price wrote. “Then they try to go cold turkey and feel discouraged and powerless when it doesn’t work.”

While having a desire to spend less time on your phone is a step in the right direction, setting a specific goal will help you get there. Do you want to spend an hour less on Twitter or decrease your TikTok usage by half? Maybe Instagram is the real time-waster for you. Whatever it is, figure out a specific, realistic goal to implement in place of a vague desire.

By pinpointing troublesome apps and having a specific amount of time in mind, and better yet, a plan for what you will fill your extra time with, you’re more likely to achieve your goal.

 

Set Time Limits

One of the simplest ways to reduce your screen time is to set limits on the apps you waste the most time on. Although these limits can help, it still takes discipline on your part to resist the temptation to keep scrolling because even after you have reached your max limit, there is an option to ignore your limit. 

Setting limits will help you but only if you take them seriously. In my experience, the limit serves as a great reminder that there are more productive and beneficial uses of my time, and I will typically stay off the app for the remainder of the day.

If you choose to implement time limits for troublesome apps, pick a realistic amount of time. I have a combined 30 minute limit on Facebook and Instagram and a one hour limit on Snapchat. Other apps aren’t as much of a temptation for me, so these are the only apps I limit. 

Figure out which apps you spend the most time mindlessly scrolling through, and set a reasonable limit. You can always add more or less time.

 

Delete Distracting Apps 

If setting app limits doesn’t work, consider deleting the app altogether. A few months ago, I deleted Reddit because I realized how much of a distraction it was. Instead of doing homework, I scrolled through the app reading various comments and threads. 

In the Netflix original documentary “The Social Dilemma,” Justin Rosenstein, former Facebook and Google engineer and Asana co-founder, stated, “I’ve uninstalled a ton of apps from my phone that I felt were just wasting my time, all the social media apps, all the news apps and I’ve turned off notifications on anything that was vibrating my leg with information that wasn’t timely and important to me right now.”

For me, this was Reddit, and I can confidently say that I do not miss that app one bit.

 

Unfollow And Mute as Needed 

Unfollowing or muting specific accounts on social media is helpful in multiple ways. By following less people, or muting the posts of some, there is less content to scroll through.

I recommend unfollowing accounts that post content you don’t care about and that you end up scrolling past without a second thought. I recommend muting accounts of friends or family members who post a little too much for your liking.

Unfollowing and muting is also an easy way to protect your mental health. If someone is posting content that makes you feel uneasy, jealous, nervous or angry, simply unfollow or mute.

“Many use social media in a passive, time passing fashion,” wrote William Berry from Psychology Today. “They are unaware of their thoughts, or passively accepting the social comparisons many are vulnerable to make. This mindset leads to negative outcomes. When social media is used mindfully, however, it can fill your page and the pages of others with uplifting messages, can lead to connection and comradery, can combat loneliness, and raise spirits.”

Curating your feed to what will benefit you the most is just one step towards using social media mindfully and creating a space where you can leave the app refreshed and uplifted rather than envious and lonely.

 

Turn Off Your Notifications

If you are serious about cutting down your screen time and limiting distractions, consider turning off your notifications. 

I acquired this practice from Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma.” At the end of the documentary, various social media experts give the audience their tips on how to reduce screen time. 

“Reduce the number of notifications you’re getting,” said Sandy Parakilas, former Facebook operations manager and former product manager for Uber. Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin, co-founders of the Center for Humane Technology encourage viewers to turn off notifications completely.

After watching the documentary, I decided to turn off notifications for Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and a few others, and I can say this has helped tremendously. Without my phone constantly buzzing and lighting up, the urge to pick it up has decreased significantly, and I find myself much less distracted while reading or doing homework.

 

Find new activities

My last tip to reduce your screen time is to find an activity or hobby to fill your newfound time with. A new activity or hobby will give you something else to do in place of mindless scrolling.

I recommend something relaxing such as reading, exercising, journaling, painting, cooking or baking. I am confident you will find these activities more fulfilling than staring at a screen.

If all else fails, there’s always homework!