5 Ways to Spend Less Time on Your Phone and More Time in Your Life

5 Ways to Spend Less Time on Your Phone and More Time in Your Life

In today’s busy world it is easy to find yourself more connected to your phone than to others around you. Over the past decade, our world has changed, and we now have everything we want right at our fingertips. This access is both a blessing and a curse. It is wonderful to be able to look up that fact you are curious about, connect with a loved one far away, and receive news alerts in real-time.


While phones can be used for many positive purposes, such as connecting with others, doing work or business tasks, or finding the information you need, they often can become problematic. Rather than spending time on meaningful activities in our lives, it is so easy to get sucked into the online wormhole and have large periods of time go by without noticing it.


This is a perpetual saga in my house each night. During the day, I am quite busy and do not have much time to look at my phone. Each night when my partner and I sit down to relax and watch television, I inevitably pull out my phone and start scrolling social media. It never fails, that every night one of us is bothered that the other one is on their phone. We communicate this with knowing glares or more vocal attempts to get the other person off of their phone. Some nights we are better than others at putting aside our phones to give our full attention to what we are watching. I am sure you are familiar with a similar pattern.


We seem to be constantly attached to our phones. We always have them with us and are constantly stimulated by alerts, messages, etc. I find it hard to ignore an alert even when I am busy doing something else. Literally, as I was writing this sentence, I received an alert on my phone. I tried to ignore it to keep working, but noticed the urge pulled too strongly and I gave in to look at the message.


The constant barrage of information is distracting both from productive tasks such as work or homework, but also from our connections. I am sure you have all had that moment when you are talking to someone and mid-sentence they become distracted and look at their phone. These little moments of being distracted by our phones can add up to large amounts of time that we are not engaged with the world and people around us and can have negative effects.


Too much time on our phones can lead to issues with relationships, productivity, connectedness, mindfulness, sleep, and other areas of life. I also hear all too frequently, “I don’t have time for____,” which for most people boils down to that they are not making the time for that particular activity. It can be shocking to realize how much time we truly spend on our phones and recognize that is time that could be spent elsewhere, perhaps on the activity we said we do not have time for.


A great way to monitor how much time you are spending on your phone is to check your “Screen Time,” statistics. On an iPhone this can be done by going to your settings and clicking the screen time tab (sorry Android users, I am not sure how to do this on an Android phone). I just checked mine and it says I spend a daily average of 2 hours and 37 minutes on my phone, that is over a whole TWO hours that I could spend doing other things that matter to me.


You can also see a breakdown by clicking the “See more activity” tab of how your time was spent. I can see that I spent the most time on Instagram, followed by phone calls and text messages. This can help you gauge if you are using your time meaningfully on the phone or mindlessly scrolling the internet.


In an age where the internet and social media take up a lot of space in our life, we have to be mindful of how we interact with our phones if we want to continue to have good connections with people and be productive in our lives. While this has been an issue for quite some time, during the COVID19 era this issue is especially problematic. Below I will discuss several strategies for spending less time on your phone and more time engaging in the stuff the matters in your life. The goal is for you to intentionally decide how much time you want to spend on your phone, rather than letting your phone control your life.


1. Set designated times to be without your phone


I know, being without your phone feels like being naked. Setting times to not have your phone and focus solely on what you are doing is important for your mental health. This will give your brain a break from the constant stimulation and allow space for other important forms of self-care.


There are several ways that you can accomplish this goal. You could set a certain time of the day to turn your phone off or leave your phone in another room. A great time for this might be dinner time. Set a rule for everyone to either turn their phones off or not bring their phones to the table so that this can be a time for in-person connection and a break from phones.


You could also play a game with this by yourself or with others; see how long of a stretch you can go without picking up or looking at your phone. See who can go the longest. You could also set a certain time of the day that you turn off your phone for the day, perhaps the cutoff is 8 pm, and each night at 8 pm you shut off your phone for the night so you have some time without it.


2. Limit your access to certain information on your phone


Many of my clients have found it helpful to limit their consumption of social media or other time spent on their phones. You can set time limits on how much time you spend on certain online platforms. On the iPhone this can be done through Settings –> Screen Time –> App Limits (again, sorry Android users). Here you can choose what category of applications you want to limit and set a certain amount of time for each day.


Another option is to delete particularly troublesome applications off your phone so that you can only access them on the computer. For example, if you spend a lot of time browsing Facebook, you could delete the application off of your phone so that you can only look at it on the computer, which may inherently limit how much time you spend mindlessly scrolling because it is no longer as easy to access.


3. Schedule in other meaningful activities into your life


One of the reasons we become so easily sucked into our phones is that we have not scheduled our time very well. In a moment of boredom or lack of something to do, we turn to our phone, but then end up being sucked in for much longer than we intended, leaving less room in our lives for other activities.


One way to combat this is to be more mindful about scheduling our time. This does not mean that every second of our lives must be scheduled out, but it can help in making sure that we do the things we care about most. Make an effort to schedule in meaningful activities for yourself every day. This could include workouts, social activities, reading, cooking, crafts, gardening, or any other activities you are passionate about.


Don’t just say you will do them, actually put them in your schedule at a certain time. By making sure you include these important activities in your schedule you will be less likely to be sucked into the void that is your phone, and even if you do, you can do so knowing that you already engaged in activities you care about today and the phone is not taking you away from those things.


4. Commit fully to doing just one thing at a time


Another problem with having our phones on us all of the time is that our attention is often divided between something happening in the world around us, and something happening on the phone. Most of us are not great multi-taskers, thus it is important to intentionally put the phone down and focus our attention on just one thing. When you are socializing with a friend, just socialize with the friend and put the phone down. When you are watching tv, just watch tv and put your phone out of reach. When you are doing work, focus all of your attention on that, and you will be surprised how much more you can get done when you are not constantly being pulled away to check your phone.


5. Reconnect with activities you used to love doing


Our new digital world comes with lots of great things but has also resulted in being disconnected from other activities that are potentially more fulfilling. Before phones and social media existed, people entertained themselves in a variety of ways. In this day and age, we have largely lost touch with a lot of those pastimes such a sports, spending time in nature, reading, cooking, being with other people, arts and crafts, etc. Time spent mindlessly scrolling the internet or social media is not restorative to our mental health, and in many cases can cause negative feelings due to comparison to others. Engaging in other activities has the potential to be more fulfilling and restorative so that you are left feeling more connected, calm, and energized at the end rather than drained.


Give each of these techniques a try to see if they can help you become more engaged with your life and find more time to do the things you care about most!


Thank you so much for tuning in! I hope these skills are helpful to you right now and for a long time to come. Skills practice is not a replacement for professional help. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns I encourage you to seek out professional help. ACTivation Psychology offers individual therapy for adolescents and adults struggling with anxiety, depression, transitions, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other mental health concerns. Telehealth services are available during this time for individuals in the state of Colorado. Please remember that you do not have to struggle alone!

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Denver, CO 80211

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