By Mia Sherin, July 27, 2021
We all know the story: going into the summer with ambitious goals, filled bucket lists and empty planners ready to be a home for your crowded daily schedule. And then somehow, things get in the way. You sleep later, the days flash before your eyes, and all of sudden you’ve spent hours mindlessly scrolling through TikTok eats away hours of the day. Basically, I’m just sharing the story of my summer. But one day, I decided to challenge myself: to reduce my screen time from an average of five hours per day to two hours a day.
I knew that I had been spending a lot of time on my phone this summer, but I didn’t realize how much time until my phone presented me with an unsolicited notification, reporting my screen time. I went into my settings to see that my screen time had averaged five hours and twelve minutes a day, which, I don’t know how long most people spend on their phone, but that feels insanely long. I knew that it wasn’t just the late night scrolls or the times I watch TV on my phone while exercising; it was all the little moments combined. The times I grabbed my phone any time I was feeling bored, or wanted to be distracted, or wanted to take a five minute break that turned into ten. So to break these bad habits, I decided to form some new ones. If you’re like me and looking to take hold of your summer and live in the present, feel free to give these a try.
- Turn on “Downtime”
Downtime is an awesome feature on the iPhone that allows you to set specific times of day where only certain apps are allowed to be used on your phone. I set up a downtime from 1 to 4pm, where I could only receive calls, texts, and use any apps that related to my work or logistics, like e-mail, Google Maps, and my notes app. If you’re hoping to stop scrolling through social media at night or first thing in the morning, you could schedule Downtime accordingly. For me, late night TikTok time is like a guilty pleasure that I’m not quite ready to give up, and I felt like it was more important to me that I stop playing on my phone throughout the afternoon.
- Set App Limits
This is another great feature that you can use through the settings of your phone. This allows you to set actual time limits for each app, and it will notify you when you have five minutes remaining on an app. I found this to be incredibly helpful with my social media apps, that I tend to mindlessly use but don’t have the self control to just exit out of. I gave myself a thirty-minute time limit on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter — and that was what really changed the game and lowered my screen time.
- Find a new “in-between” activity
This was the hardest part. Finding a way to fill those little in-between times where you wanted to be doing something that was basically the same as doing nothing. Grabbing my phone and just switching through different apps was the quick fix, and finding a sufficient replacement wasn’t easy. I decided to turn to my roots: AKA, friendship bracelets. I used to love making them when I was a kid, and I remembered the patterns well enough that I didn’t have to think much about what I was doing and could totally zone out. If you’re looking for an in-between fix, think about your interests and the things you enjoy, whether it be a quick walk outside, listening to music (which I would argue does not count as screen time!), baking a treat, or playing an instrument.
- Ask others to hold you accountable
One benefit of working at home this summer has been my ability to toss my phone at my brother and say, “Don’t give this back to me until I finish my work!” or “Don’t let me look at it unless I really need to!” He takes his job seriously and houses my phone until I feel like I’ve gotten enough work done that I’ve earned a little break. Even with friends, I’ve made sure to tell them about my goal, and we make it a little game when we hang out together. If we’re out for dinner, we put our phones away and the first person to look at theirs has to pay for the tip. Whatever it may be, reaching out to others for support and leaning on your friends is always a good idea when trying to form positive habits.