Has the reflection off your phone screen ever tricked you into thinking you have a notification?
Do you go to use your phone to make a call or check the time, but somehow find yourself scrolling down your facebook feed?
Do the people closest to you complain every time you reach for your device?
These days far more people own smart devices than those who don’t and unfortunately we seem to be programmed to want to check our phone when we feel it vibrate or hear that familiar ding.
But in this day and age, ditching your device entirely isn’t really possible or practical, at least not for those who need to be contactable by friends, family and work.
It can be hard to know how much screen time is too much, but if you feel as though your device might be taking its toll on your physical and psychological health and wellbeing, you might need some help managing your device use.
So if you’re looking to reduce your screen time to regain a bit more balance in your life, here are some tips and tricks for establishing a healthier relationship with your phone.
Practise phone Feng Shui
The first step, evaluate what you do and don’t need on your phone. Apps are purposefully designed to suck you in and never let go. So delete the apps you don’t use/need and turn off notifications for those apps that you just ignore when they do appear. The less your phone is reaching out for your attention, the less attention you will give it.
Try practising a little phone feng shui, your homepage is usually where all your favourite apps are located so try shuffling the apps around or remove their shortcuts all together. If you don’t see your favourite apps when you unlock your phone, you’ll have to go hunting around for it. See if you notice a difference.
In the morning
Break the cycle before it begins. It’s easy to go from one app to another when you haven’t seen any notifications for hours on end and want to catch up on what you’ve missed. And once you’ve checked all your usual apps, it’s easy to cycle back to the beginning and start the loop all over again.
Get an actual alarm clock rather than having your phone by the bed or under the pillow.
Remove the temptation of checking your favourite social media apps in the morning by moving your phone well out of reach and making the bed a phone-free zone.
In the car
Turn on an app or Do Not Disturb which can block notifications, incoming calls and messages from appearing on the screen.
This is by far the most dangerous time of day to be on your phone, which makes it the most important time to avoid device usage. If you know you can’t resist reaching for your phone, make it impossible for you to get to before you even start the car.
While at work
The old saying out of sight, out of mind, can be your best friend at work. Rather than having your phone on your desk, put your phone in a drawer or in your bag.
There’s always one in a workplace, the person who can’t seem to keep their eyes or hands off their phone. Not only can this affect your productivity but it’s also unprofessional. Look at downloading a device addiction app that has a work mode which will put all social and distracting apps to sleep.
While you’re out and about
If you’re spending time with people who also struggle to put down their phone, make it into a game, try gathering your phones together in the centre of the table. The first person to reach for their phone pays for the whole bill, if no one caves, split the bill evenly.
One of the main motivations of reaching for your smart device is the desire to be connected. It can be a bad habit to reach for your phone while in the company of others, so rather than rely on the sense of connection you feel when you check social media, concentrate on the person or people you are spending time with.
In the evening
When you go to sit down for the evening to relax on the couch, set a timer for your screen time and stick to it. Once you’ve reached your limit, put it away.
If you need to be accessible for incoming calls, simply turn off notifications for just the apps on your phone and messages, or just the apps.
Now all of these tips this might seem like too much at once and breaking up with your device cold turkey isn’t always the best approach. Getting back to a healthy balance between real life and screen time might be a process of slowing reducing the amount of times you check your phone a day, or you might only allow yourself one phone check per hour if your fingers are feeling the itch.
You can try a combination of these tips or all of them but if you need some extra help in sticking to your newfound resolve, there are some, wait for it, apps that can help.
Surprisingly, 4 apps that could help
It may seem counterintuitive to download yet another app to help you stay off your phone, but many have tracking capabilities to show you just how much time you are spending on your phone, or even picking it up to check for notifications.
Being aware of your device usage habits can help you to face unpleasant truths about how heavily you rely on your device, but can also help you to monitor your progress and improvements.
Depending on whether you want to pay for an app and whether you use Apple or Android products there are a variety of options to help you cut back on your smart screen time.
Moment for iOS. 4.5 stars out of 5 on the App Store
Moment allows you to set daily limits for your device usage and notifies you when you exceed them. If you go over your daily limit you can force yourself off your device once you’ve reached this limits by using the feature which will flood your screen with alerts when you stay on your phone. Moment also tracks how many times you ‘pick up’ your phone but don’t spend time on it. Moment has both free and paid plans with differing levels of features available on both.
Space for iOS and Android. 4.2 stars out of 5 on google play
Space is one of the more user friendly apps available to help you curb your device addiction. It provides all the usual tracking and monitoring features but also provides you with a daily score, which can be particularly useful for people who play a lot of games on their phones. It does run the risk of becoming a game itself however as you try to beat your previous scores. Space is free to use and is advertisement free, however there are some further features you can get access to if you upgrade to the paid Pro plan.
AppDetox for Android. 4 out of 5 stars on google play
AppDetox allows you to set yourself rules for your ideal amount of time spent on your device and can send reminders and alerts when you’re at risk of breaking your rules. It lets you lock down certain apps so they can’t be accessed or send you notifications during certain periods of the day. It can also help keep track of how often and how much you are using certain apps. AppDetox is free to download.
Flipd for iOS and Android. 3.9 stars out of 5 on google play
We’ve saved this particular app for last because it takes the most extreme approach to helping you stay off your smart device. While the app shares many of the same features of the previous apps, monitoring use of your smart phone, reminders to stay on task there is one feature that takes an extreme approach. The full lock feature when activated will lock you out of your phone, even turning it off and on again won’t unlock your device. You can alter the amount of time you want to be locked out of your phone whether it be for a short period of time or hours on end. The app comes as a free download with basic features or you can select a monthly or yearly plan to get some of the more in depth and detailed features.
It’s not me, it’s you
It can be a fine line to walk, between staying connected to the online world and being tethered to it. And if it takes some time to disconnect from your smart device, don’t worry, remember that every app on your phone has been specifically designed to grab and hold your attention. And you’re certainly not alone, a 2017 survey found that up to 70% of Australians use their phones during mealtimes.
If you are concerned about your family or friends and the amount of time they spend on their devices, share this article with them and help them regain a little balance in their lives.
This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Home Insurance