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8 Great Tips to Manage Your Screen Time

The best practical advice to improve your digital hygiene

By Matty Reed
|
October 2, 2023

Your digital devices are incredibly powerful and useful technologies. They should not be rejected out of fear, and they should not be embraced without a better understanding of their traps. 

Your smartphone grants you access to endless possibilities for entertainment and social media dopamine hits available on a screen in your pocket at nearly all moments of the day. It can be overwhelming and perniciously addicting.

The advice in this blog will help you limit the downsides of excessive screen time and increase the upside of your digital tools by setting healthy boundaries and constraints to avoid attention traps and doom-scrolling.

1. Set screen time limits on your device usage

Too much screen time has negative effects on our well being. (source) Scientific research has linked excessive screen time to various negative outcomes, including poor sleep, increased risk of depression and anxiety, and decreased physical activity. (source)

Set screen time limits on the amount of time you spend on your devices each day or week. This can help you avoid overuse and maintain a healthy relationship with your devices. Limiting screen time can also help you focus more on important activities and be more intentional with your time. 

  • iOS
    You can limit screen time on your iOS device using the Downtime, App Limits, and Communication Limits features. (source)
  • Android
    You can limit screen time on your Android device using the Digital Wellness features. (source)

If you want to take your screen time limits to the next level, there are some applications that are built specifically for this purpose. They have limited free versions but you'll have to pay for the pro features.

What is a reasonable daily limit for recreational screen time?
Adults should aim for no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day. (source)

2. Schedule downtime

Schedule downtime to limit screen time during certain periods throughout the day or week. Setting downtime or screen time limits on your mobile device is especially useful for morning and bedtime routines.

  • iOS
    This can be achieved on iOS using the Downtime feature. (source)
  • Android
    This can be achieved on Android using the Bedtime feature. (source)

3. Take regular breaks from your screens

It's important to take breaks from your devices to give your eyes and mind a rest. Taking breaks to stretch and move around will help circulation and overall health. (source)

Here are some tips for taking breaks:

  • Take a 15-minute break every 2 hours of screen time. (source)
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. (source)
  • Consider scheduling short breaks in your calendar to make sure you don’t forget. (read our Guide to Better Digital Hygiene ebook for more specific advice)
  • Some stretches and movements you can do during breaks include neck and shoulder rolls, wrist and finger stretches, and walking or jogging in place. (source)

4. Keep your phone out of sight and out of reach

Keep your phone off, out of reach, or on “Do not disturb” while working to improve productivity and focus. (source) This is a best practice to employ not only during work but also as a general tip to improve your engagement while spending time with loved ones. 

According to one study, "phone use may undermine the enjoyment people derive from real world social interactions." (source) "As useful as smartphones can be, our findings confirm what many of us likely already suspected," lead study author and psychology PhD student Ryan Dwyer told Science Daily. “When we use our phones while we are spending time with people we care about—apart from offending them—we enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away.” (source)

5. Organize mobile device home screens by function–and friction

There is no single best way to organize your applications, but you can follow the general principle of increasing friction to reduce accessibility to detrimental activities by making it slightly more difficult to open attention-trapping and addictive apps. (source)

Here are some tips to organize your mobile phone screens:

  • Screen 1
    Tools and often useful, non-addictive apps. This includes utility apps, search apps, wallet apps, productivity apps, accounting apps, any other app that you believe is a positive influence on your wellbeing.
  • Screen 2
    Occasionally useful, low-addiction apps including utility apps, transportation, finance, shopping, reading, listening, food, etc…
  • Screen 3+
    Addictive apps, social media, games, very low use apps, etc…

If you find you are especially susceptible to social media app addiction on your mobile device:

  • Move social media apps to one of your later home screen pages and/or move them into the second screen of a folder.
  • Remove the apps from your mobile device altogether and only access them at specific times on the web.

Another tip is to turn off search suggestions which forces you to be more intentional when searching for which applications to open.

  • iOS
    Toggle off “Show Suggestions” and “Show Recents” in the ‘Siri & Search’ settings. (source)
  • Android
    Go into the “Home Settings” screen and toggle off “Suggestions”(source)

6. Use an app or browser extension to block distractions

Ad Blockers can be useful tools for avoiding distractions online and faster browsing. “Whether you’re using a mobile device, a computer, or a tablet, ad blockers can help you save time, protect your personal information, and eliminate annoying ads.” (source)

Some effective apps or extensions for blocking distracting websites and apps:

Some effective apps or extensions for blocking browser advertisements:

How can I customize the settings to ensure the app or extension is working for me?
Experiment with different settings to find what works best for you. You can also set up custom schedules or whitelists to allow access to certain websites or apps during specific times.

What should I do if I need to access a blocked website or app for work or other important reasons?
Most blocking apps and extensions allow you to temporarily unblock websites or apps for a set amount of time. You can also add exceptions to your blocking settings for specific websites or apps that you need to access regularly.

7. Use dark mode and minimize exposure to blue light at night

Blue light during the evening and night can negatively affect sleep. Exposure to blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the body's production of melatonin, which is important for sleep. (source) This can be avoided by wearing blue light blocking glasses, using dark mode, and warm-shifting your screens.

  • iOS
    Many operating systems have dark mode and warm-shifting features out of the box such as iPhone’s Night Shift feature. (source)
  • Android
    If you use an Android device, you can toggle on the Night Light feature. (source)
  • Mac/Windows Desktop
    There are also free tools that can be installed on your desktop machine with more advanced warm-shifting controls. (source)

8. Don’t use screens in bed

Exposure to blue light emitted by screens can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, which is important for sleep. Additionally, using screens before bed can be mentally stimulating and make it harder to fall asleep. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that exposure to screens before bedtime can delay the onset of sleep and reduce overall sleep duration, so avoiding screens can improve sleep quality. (source)

The best tip is to avoid screens in bed at least an hour after waking up and an hour before sleeping. Make this a part of your morning and bedtime routines. The only exception to this rule is if you like to read in a tablet bed and you are using blue light blocking glasses, using dark mode, and warm-shifting your screens. (source)

Avoid attention traps that might prevent you from starting your day or getting to sleep on time. Doom scrolling is an easy, yet insidious, solution to wandering thoughts at night and can also prevent you from getting up in the morning. Additionally, avoid reading overwhelming emails and messages that may derail your plan for the day or cause unnecessary stress before bed. (source)

What are some activities I can do instead of using screens before bed?
Reading a physical book, listening to calming music or a guided meditation, and practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can help you wind down before bed.

How can I make sure I stick to my bedtime routine and avoid getting distracted by screens?
One way to stick to your bedtime routine is to set a specific time to start winding down and avoid screens during that time. You can also try using a physical book or meditation to relax before sleep.

Conclusion

Managing screen time effectively is about creating a balanced relationship with your digital devices. By implementing the tips shared in this blog, such as setting limits, scheduling downtime, and organizing your home screens, you can minimize distractions and maximize productivity. 

Remember, the goal is not to reject technology but to harness its potential while mitigating its downsides. Prioritizing your well-being and aligning your screen usage with your values will help you achieve a healthier, more intentional, and fulfilling digital experience.

If you found this blog useful, download our FREE ebook: A Guide to Better Digital Hygiene.

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