Beauty & Fashion

6 Ways to Reduce Your Screen Time

6 Ways to Reduce Your Screen Time

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A woman in a red sweater and jeans sitting on a red easy chair while using her phone

It’s safe to say that most of us could stand to cut down on our screen time (no judgment here — damn you, infinite scroll!). While we’ve discussed reducing screen time before (including specifically for working moms), we decided it’s time for an update on ways to reduce your screen time — both on your phone and computer.

Readers, what are the best ways you’ve found to limit screen time? Please share your favorite settings, apps, and plugins!

Limiting screen time can be tricky because there are plenty of activities on your phone (or on other screens) that are generally beneficial, like listening to podcasts, reading e-books, using meditation apps, messaging with friends and family, and so on. That’s why tools that limit your access to certain sites and apps can be more helpful than those that treat all screen time equally.

The following strategies include both options!

6 Ways to Reduce Your Screen Time

Built-In Screen Time Limits

Starting with the basics, if you have an iPhone, Screen Time settings help you tackle your phone use. You can limit time spent per app or app category (such as games) and set certain apps to be accessible 24/7. Adjusting Downtime will block apps and notifications during the time periods you choose. And “turning off” an app removes it from your home screen but doesn’t delete it (is this news to anyone else?!).

On an Android phone, use the Digital Wellbeing controls to monitor your habits, like how much time you spend using particular apps, how many times you unlock your phone, how many notifications you get, etc. You can also set app time limits and/or “pause” certain apps.

Focus / Do Not Disturb mode on any type of phone is helpful — and remember, you can make exceptions for certain contacts to reach you no matter what. Also check your settings for individual app notifications — personally, I feel like I spend too much swiping unnecessary notifications throughout the day.

You can limit your computer use by setting limits on your home WiFi — say, starting at your ideal bedtime. This CNET article explains how to do this through your router or using Circle for Netgear.

Display Settings

This tactic not only makes your phone screen look less appealing (and therefore tempting) but also can remind you that it’s time to go to bed, or just put down your phone. You can change your color scheme to grayscale to make it look boring, dim your wallpaper and lock screen (iPhone/Android), set to dark mode, and so on.

Here’s a quick tip: Although it definitely has its issues (like telling you to add glue to pizza and, uh, threatening blogs like ours), Google’s AI Overview feature is a helpful for finding out how to adjust phone settings without having to sort through lots of search results.

Forrest App & Plugin

Forest is a gamification-based app for iPhone, Android, and Chrome that aims to help you “Stay focused, be present.” Forest kind of reminds me of a Tamagotchi — it lets you plant a virtual tree, and while you focus on what you’re supposed to, the tree grows. Leave the app before you’re done and the tree will die. (Aww, poor little tree.) Otherwise, you can grow your own forest.

{related: how to take a partial social media break}

Morphine Plugin

Morphine is a Chrome plugin that lets you block certain websites, then draw from a balance when you visit them.

Here’s an excerpt from Kat’s original review:

The idea is that you only “earn” time with the URLs you put in Morphine after you’ve been using the computer for more productive purposes for a certain amount of time. Perfect.

I used to have it set to 1 minute of play time for every 10 minutes of work time, but that left me with far too many minutes in my bank — so I switched it to 1 minute of play time for every 60 minutes of work time.

That was a bit too little. I’ve decided I need at least 3 minutes to look at Facebook, even using the Social Fixer plugin, because when I try to sneak a peek for one minute, and inevitably try to refresh it for another minute more, it would take me at least 30 seconds to find my place scrolling down the page.

{related: are you leaving social media this year (have you already left?)}

Other Apps

Other recommended phone apps to limit screen time are Minimalist for Android (changes your home screen interface to a limited text-only list), Stay Focused for iPhone and Android (blocks apps/websites and can stop you from changing settings / uninstalling), and one sec for iPhone and Android (allows you to “set an intention” before opening apps to halt mindless tapping).

Your Own Rules

If you’ve got a bit more willpower than me (and don’t want to spend time fooling around with settings), set your own screen time guidelines, like these:

1. Don’t use your phone in bed, or perhaps while eating (for more mindful meals).

2. If you always reach for your phone immediately after waking up, charge your phone elsewhere, or at least across the room.

3. Delete social media apps from your phone — and keep them off.

4. When you open a time-sucking app, set a timer on your phone for 15 or 30 mins. and then stop when your time’s up.

You also might want to check out the reader-recommended How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life (Amazon/Bookshop).

Readers, what are your favorite ways to reduce your screen time on your phone and computer? Have you tried any of the above?

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