We’re swiping, scrolling and messaging more than ever.
Ofcom’s Online Nation report found that the average smartphone user spends 2 hours 34 minutes online via their phone each day. One in every five minutes spent online is on social media and on average, we’re spending 39 minutes a day on these sites and apps. While being able to stay in contact with those we miss and having an oracle of knowledge at our fingertips is powerful, our smartphones are also major distractions. They are our lifelines in boredom and uncomfortable situations, pulling us away from being present in the moment, as well as creating a sense of being ‘always-on‘.
More recently, with extra time on our hands at home, we’re likely to be spending even more minutes on our phones. Working from home blurs the boundaries of work and home life further, making it tempting to pick up emails in the evening. On the other hand, it’s likely we’re also consuming more social media and news via our smartphones during the coronavirus pandemic. While it’s important to keep updated, a constant deluge of bad news can be debilitating and potentially increase anxiety.
To maintain technology as something that serves us, rather than steals our time and focus away from the things that truly matter to us, we’ve put together some useful tips and tricks for how to spend less time on your phone, inspired by digital minimalism and slow tech.
11 Tips to Spend Less Time on Your Phone
“Digital minimalism definitively does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people currently engage with these tools”
Tip 1. Start With Why
Why do you want to spend less time on your phone? It might be because it’s distracting you from what’s really important to you, such as spending quality time with family or cooking healthier meals from scratch. Or, perhaps it’s preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, leaving you feeling frazzled. It might be because you’re fed up with FOMO and comparing yourself to others online, or, it might be that you want to switch off from constant communication with work.
In SLOW, Brooke McAlary explains, ‘we enjoy telling others we’re busy. Too busy, in fact, for the things that are important to us, and isn’t that a shame? But can I honestly say that my priority is eating better if I have enough time to mindlessly scroll through social media and clickbait for an hour, but not enough time to cook?’
Whatever your reason to unplug and reduce your screentime is, it’s important to remember what you’re trying to gain by doing so.
Tip 2. Check Your Phone’s Screen Time
There are many apps, such as Moment, that monitor how you spend your time on your phone. Ironic, really. On iOS devices, there’s a built in Screen Time report that tells you how many minutes and hours you spend on each app and can let you know if your usage was up week on week.
Take a look at your usage to work out where you’re spending more time than you’d like.
Tip 3. Turn Off Notifications
After you’ve determined which apps you’re opening most frequently, turn off notifications for these. Instead of being distracted every time you see a notification pop-up, you’ll have to manually open the app to check for updates.
Tip 4. Re-arrange Your Apps
We can often unconsciously click on apps when we’re bored or absent-minded. Make yourself more aware of mindless scrolling by reshuffling your apps. You will need to take a moment to remember where the app is, which may encourage you to question why you’re even looking for it.
Tip 5. Add Time Limits or Delete Apps
Is reshuffling your home screen not enough to stop you scrolling? Add screen time limits to your apps that remind you when you’ve spent your allocated time, or, delete them entirely. This works well for social media since you can still access the sites via your phone’s browser – but it’s much more effort to do so, that you probably won’t, or at least will be very aware if you do.
Tip 6. Go Gray Scale
Want to make your phone less enticing? Turn the display to gray scale and Instagram suddenly seems less appealing. To properly re-engage with your social feeds, you’ll need to turn colour back on. This is another barrier that aims to make you more aware of when you’re veering into mindless scrolling.
Tip 7. Use ‘Do Not Disturb’
Tempted to check your phone while watching a film or over coffee with a friend? Make use of your phone’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature, or even aeroplane mode, to help you stay in the moment and not become distracted. We often say we can multi-task, but usually neither action gets done properly. It’s about doing fewer things, but doing each thing better.
Tip 8. Go Phone-Free (Sometimes)
What’s even better than ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode? No phone at all.
Our phone is like an extension of our body – we feel lost when it’s not in our hand or pocket. Leaving your phone at home when going for a walk, or in another room when you want to focus on something else, helps lessen this digital dependency. Even if you felt a bit twitchy, when you pick up your phone again, you’ll probably find that nothing important happened in that short period.
Tip 9. Create a Phone-Free Bedtime
- Use an analogue alarm clock
- Don’t use your phone in the hour leading up to sleep
- Turn on night shift or equivalent to add a warmer, eye-friendly brightness setting to your screen in the evening
The blue light emitted from our screens can interfere with our circadian rhythm and prevent us from getting sleepy. For a better night’s sleep, avoid using your phone in the lead up to bed and avoid reaching for it at night or first thing in the morning.
Tip 10. Design a Phone-Free Morning
If you’ve created a phone-free bedroom, you’re half way to a phone-free morning, too. Allow yourself to properly wake up before getting lost in notifications and emails. Many have chosen to reclaim their mornings with exercise, meditation or other activities before they even check their phone.
Tip 11. Unplug during Meals
Sat opposite someone swiping and messaging during a meal? It’s pretty annoying. Even if you’re eating alone, phone-free mindful eating is a useful technique to become more aware of how we think about food and how quickly we’re eating, rather than chowing something down on autopilot.
Technology is a choice – we all have the ability to utilise it in a way that benefits us, rather than distracts us from what we find truly important. As Cal Newport says, “what we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life.”
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