If you are wondering how to spend less time on your phone but you can’t stop looking at your phone, you are not alone. On average, we are spending four – five hours a day on our mobile devices. That’s more than a full day a week! We tend to underestimate our usage too. Even though the data is trackable, it’s hard to see and easier to avoid.
If you are sick of scrolling or want to avoid the regret that comes in a few years from choosing your phone over your life, I have some time-saving tricks for you. This isn’t to say that phones are bad, only that losing control over the time you spend on your phone isn’t great.
(The Less Phone, More Life Challenge available in my membership program, The Simplicity Space, will help you reduce your screen time by 25% in a week or less.)
How to Spend Less Time on your Phone
Now that we’ve covered why you should spend less time on your phone, let’s talk about how. These 15 suggestions will help you make your phone less interesting and make you more intentional. They will help you consider how you really want to spend your time. I recommend trying these one at a time. See what works for you and modify the suggestions that aren’t a perfect fit.
There’s nothing to lose by giving a few of these a try, especially when compared to the things you may gain. When you spend less time on your phone, you’ll enjoy more free time, a better attention span and more human connection.
1. Remove email from your phone.
I removed email from my phone years ago and don’t miss it at all. There’ve been less than a handful of times email on my phone could have been helpful (over several years) and I’ve reclaimed time and mental space by never looking at email on phone. If you notice you check email on your phone but don’t take action or don’t take meaningful action, save email until you are back at your desk or computer or carving out time specifically for handling email instead of chipping away at it all day long. If you aren’t sure if this will work for you, experiment. Try 30 days without email on your phone and see how it feels.
2. Don’t keep apps on the home screen or in neatly labeled containers.
Instead, keep all apps in one folder (see lower right of my screen above). I open my apps (when I want to) by typing the app name in the search bar. That way I’m not tempted to open an app just because I see it on my phone when I am innocently checking the time. For the most part, you’ll likely forget they are there at all.
3. Turn off all notifications except for phone or text.
Turn off social notifications, breaking news updates, useless reminders that apps send you to keep you engaged and anything else that distracts you from your life. It takes an average of 23 minutes to bounce back from a distraction. Stay more focused with notifications off. If your calendar notifications are helpful, keep them on. Otherwise turn them off too.
4. Be honest about how much time you spend on your phone.
If you are concerned with your phone usage, notice when, how and why you use your phone and certain apps. If you want to find out where most of your phone time goes, try an app like Moment to track. For a quick glance of your mobile minutes and what apps get most of your time:
- go to settings
- click battery
- see “battery usage”
- click the little clock icon on the right
You can see your hours/minutes spent on each app for the last 24 hours or 7 days.
5. Do not disturb.
There is a Do Not Disturb feature on your phone for a reason. Mine is set from 7pm to 7am and when I’m working on projects. Airplane mode or turning your phone off works too, but when you use the Do Not Disturb feature, you can set it up so your “favorites” can still contact you. My closest people can get through if there is an emergency.
Here’s how to do it on the iPhone: settings > do not disturb > turn it on You can also choose scheduled times and the option to “allow favorites” and then set favorites up under your contacts.
6. Go gray.
Make your phone less appealing to look at by changing the settings to grayscale. Here’s how to set it up and easily switch back to color.
iPhones: Go to: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters. Switch Color Filters on and select Grayscale. To easily toggle between color and grayscale, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters. Now, you just press the home button three times to enable grayscale. Triple-click again to go back to color. (Instructions from this Lifehacker article)
Android: May vary from model to model, so please Google instructions.
7. Slow the scroll.
If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling, put a rubber band or hair band around the middle of your phone and harness the power of the pause.
Do as Brad Soroka recommends in this article, “Every time you want to use your phone, this brings about a mindfulness exercise and makes you ask “what is my intention?” If you really want to use the phone, set your intention for why, and remove the hair band. Use Spotlight to open the app you need. While the hair band blocks the full usage of your phone, it still works with Siri, so you can use voice to make calls, get directions, and even open apps. But similar to the Spotlight technique, using Siri forces you to set your intention before opening the app you need.
8. Leave home without it.
The very best way to eliminate the distraction of your phone is by leaving it at home. Go out with out it, and schedule regular digital sabbaticals.
If you want real connection and honest answers, check your heart more than you check your phone. Less phone. More heart.
9. Read a book about spending less time on your phone.
Whenever I made a change, I like to surround myself with helpful instruction, inspiration and support. Read, How To Break Up With Your Phone for a deeper dive and fun challenge.
10. If you want to spend less time on your phone, welcome boredom.
One of the biggest problems of being on our phones all the time is we don’t get bored. The phone seems to have all of the answers. Instead, consult your inner Google (should we call that Moogle or Broogle). Make time to get bored and check in with yourself. Look around at all of the other sources of wisdom in your life, especially the one within.
11. Identify phone free zones.
Consider space zones like the dining room table, bathroom and car and time zones like the time you’d rather be sleeping or first thing in the morning. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy your morning coffee or to take a walk before getting lost in your inbox? Assign phone free zones to help you spend less time on your phone and more time doing what you really want to do.
12. Stop filling all the spaces.
We love to check our phones when we are waiting in line, waiting for an appointment, in between work projects and look to your left and right at a stoplight and chances are, you’ll spot a driver checking their phone. We’re filling the spaces instead of enjoying them, instead of letting them unfold and instead of being alone with our own thoughts. See what happens when you stop filling all the spaces. The world is noisy enough. Let some of it be quiet.
13. Follow fewer people to spend less time on your phone.
If you spend most of your time on social media apps. Unfollow as many people as possible. I unfollowed everyone on Twitter years ago with the intention of coming back more thoughtfully but instead, I kind of forgot to go back.
14. Be together, together.
Even though it seems like you are spending time with the people you love, look around. Are you all spending time on your phones instead? Being alone, together? Instead, create outings, activities and opportunities to be together, together without screens.
15. Find something that matters more.
Share a picture on your lock screen of something or someone that matters more than what’s on the other side. Sometimes we just need that reminder that what’s happening around us is better than what we think we are going to find on our phones.
The Benefit of Building Healthy Smartphone Habits
It’s pretty clear that smartphones aren’t going anywhere so it’s up to us to build health smartphone habits. You could adopt some of the recommendations from this article like, practice good phone etiquette, try a phast or make a list of non-phone related activities (pottery, hip hop dance class and skydiving are all options).
With practice, intentions and maybe timers and lock boxes, you can create a healthier relationship with your phone.