Truthfully, I really hate when people get on my back about my phone and laptop usage. It’s 2019, and most people rely on their electronics for just about everything: for work, for school, for online shopping, for keeping in touch with friends… they’re a necessary part of life. However, while some screen time is necessary, I for one am guilty of grabbing my phone whenever I have a free second. Do I really need to scroll through Instagram 10 times a day, watch Netflix on my laptop in bed, or tag my best friend in meme after meme? Probably not. Research has shown that excessive screen time can result in impaired cognitive functioning, sleep disturbances, vision issues, weight gain, and a whole host of other issues that you’re probably not eager to experience. Identifying and changing your habits in order to reduce your screen time, but not impossible. Here are ten ways to start.
Make it a goal to keep all of your meals “screen-free.”
It’s almost shocking to realize how many of my meals are spent in front of a screen. I eat breakfast while I watch whatever show I recorded the night before. During my lunch break, I’m typically watching YouTube videos or perusing social media. Even during family dinner, my phone is usually nearby. Moving forward, making all meals “screen-free” is an excellent way to reduce your screen time. I’ve found that calling a friend to catch up, reading a magazine, or even sitting outside and enjoying the weather are great alternative ways to spend mealtime.
Set a timer– and stick to it!
There’s nothing wrong with mindlessly going through social media… in moderation. Instead of getting on Facebook, Twitter, or IG and scrolling away for hours, set time limits on your usage. For example, give yourself 20 minutes to look through your feed in your spare time. Once your timer goes off, that’s it! Social media can be a major time waster, and using a timer will keep you accountable and give you time you can use for more productive things.
Charge your phone across the room at night.
We all know that looking at a bright phone while you’re trying to fall asleep is completely counterproductive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it. Some people advise charging your phone in your living area overnight to keep your bedroom completely electronic-free. If you rely on your phone’s alarm clock like me, plug it in across the bedroom instead. It’s out of arm’s reach so you won’t be tempted to look at it while you’re falling asleep, plus you’ll be forced to get out of bed to turn your alarm off the next morning. Win win!
Try out new hobbies.
My best friend can sit in silence for long periods of time, just thinking, day -dreaming, and even meditating. She might as well be an alien – I cannot do that! If you’re like me, you need something else to fill the void created when you ditch your electronics. Personally, I’m a huge fan of jigsaw puzzles. I put on some music, get out a puzzle, and go to town. Other options include crosswords, board games, or even art projects if you’re artistically inclined.
Keep a book on hand at all times.
I’m most prone to pull out my cell phone whenever I’m waiting for something. Sitting on a bus in traffic? Phone. Waiting in the doctor’s office? Phone. Take-out order’s running late at a restaurant? Phone. It’s understandable, but it’s also an easy place to reduce your screen time. If you’ve got the same habit, keep a book in your purse or backpack at all times. Instead of pulling out your phone, you can read a few pages in your book. It’s much more productive, and you’ll find yourself actually excited to be stuck waiting for things!
Have sporadic “fasts” from screens.
Have you heard of meat-free Monday? Why not try media-free Monday? Screen-free Sunday? Phone-free Friday? You get the point. Challenge yourself to go 24 hours without using your phone, computer, or TV (or at the very least, without using it for recreational purposes). It’ll be hard at first, but every challenge will get a bit easier!
Even if you think you’re a professional multitasker, your work inevitably suffers when you’re splitting your attention between work and screens. Force yourself to turn the TV off and leave your phone in your bag or in another room as you work, and then treat yourself with a little screen time as soon as you’ve finished your to-do list. You’ll find that your work actually goes much faster without your phone or television, I promise.
Leave your phones at home, when possible.
Sometimes taking your phone with you is the safest thing to do, but look for opportunities when it would be OK to leave it at home. It can be incredibly refreshing to spend a day enjoying time with friends and family without the temptation of emails and notifications pulling you away from the present.
Designate specific times when you’ll respond to email, social media notifications, etc.
For example, make it a rule to stop responding to things on your phone after 7:00 p.m. You can give your friends and relatives a heads-up that you’re going to be doing this so there are no hurt feelings by your “silent treatment.” Once the clock hits 7:00, you can relax and mentally check out, which will ultimately help you get to sleep easier.
Parents: set a good example!
You can’t preach the benefits of reduced screen time to your kids if you’ve got your nose in your phone or laptop every time they look over! Set a household goal to reduce your screen time and walk the walk. Better yet, find fun things to do that don’t require screens so that your kids see plenty of alternative options.