How to spend less time on your phone in 5 steps

Anne-Kathrin Walter

Are you wondering how you can spend less time on your phone? In this blog you can find 5 practical tips to reduce your screen time.

If you are anything like me, you have a tendency to pick up your phone every few minutes to check if there is anything interesting for you to see. There is nothing bad about using your phone, as it makes many tasks in our daily lives easier. 

However, phone usage becomes a problem when you feel like you can’t live without it anymore, you can’t leave the house without it or when it is influencing your real life social interactions with others.

Does this sound familiar to you? Good! I have written this article for you (and me)! In this article I am diving into the following aspects:

  • How phones are taking over our lives without us knowing it.
  • Why it is good to spend less time on your phone.
  • Why especially highly sensitive people should be aware of their time spent on the phone.
  • Activities that you could give a try instead of scrolling through social media.
     

Start your journey to spend less time on your phone by watching ‘The Social Dilemma’

If you have Netflix, I recommend you to start your journey towards a life with less phone time by watching the documentary “The Social Dilemma”.

This documentary was a real eye opener for me on how the social media industry has changed in the past couple of years. While the initial goal when inventing social media was to connect people with each other and offer a place where you can find funny cat videos, the tastiest recipes and read the latest news, something has changed recently. 

In the documentary, various experts from the social media industry express their concerns on how the biggest social media apps are currently dealing with the ethics in relation to social media usage. Below, you can see the trailer of the documentary:

A different approach while developing apps

Some app developers are developing apps with the motive of keeping you on them as long as possible. Because the more time you spend on the app, the more money they make. Moreover, they use knowledge on how the human brain works to develop apps that trigger you to stay on the app longer. And that’s the problem. 

People are starting to get addicted. There’s a reason why you and I feel the need to continuously pick up our phones to check if we’ve been missing anything. Our own psychology is being used against us.

I could write an entire blog article about this, but I recommend you to watch The Social Dilemma to obtain deeper insights on how they do that.

Why spend less time on your phone?

With the apps becoming more addicting and our phones becoming more advanced, people obviously start to use their phones many more hours compared to ten years ago.

While the average time spent on your phone per day in the US was 45 minutes in 2011, this number is 5 times higher in 2020 with an average time of 231 minutes per day! Let that sink in for a while.

This increase in time spent on your phone can have serious consequences on your health. Various studies confirmed that there is a link between social media usage and increased risk for issues such as depression, anxiety, feeling lonely, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts.

 

Highly sensitive people: Be conscious about your phone usage!

Especially for highly sensitive people, who are more likely to feel anxious due to the heightened activity in their amygdala - the region in the brain responsible for feeling alert and anxious - this information is important.

If you spend much time on social media and your phone, you are processing a load of information from all different types of sources. Moreover, your brain is filled with input that it needs to process and since you are highly sensitive, you are processing it on a deeper level. 

This means that too much social media usage can actually become overwhelming for you, without you even realizing it, because it wants you to become addicted to it. 

In the worst case, you find yourself becoming more and more addicted and at the same time more and more overwhelmed. Time to break that vicious cycle and take back control over your mental wellbeing!

5 tips to spend less time on your phone

But how? It is incredibly hard to stop using your phone all the time. I know it because I’ve tried it so often. However, I have discovered that some methods work better than others. Below, I am sharing my best tips with you.

1. Do a social media detox

My first tip to spend less time on your phone is to feel the effect of not using social media all the time and how life would be without it.

When I learned to use my phone less, I chose to spend a weekend without checking social media. I still used my phone for apps that stimulate good health, such as my meditation apps and productivity apps. 

However, all apps that were not stimulating my well-being, were put in a folder on my phone that I named ‘Don’t do it!’. This way, everytime I felt the urge to check social media, I was confronted with my intention to not do it that weekend.

I recommend you to try the same. Go an entire weekend without social media and see how it affects your overall well-being to do so.

For me, it was confronting to see how much of my actual presence in the physical world social media stole from me. In fact, I became more mindful by doing this detox. 

Therefore, I hope that you will experience the same shift when trying this activity.

2. Reflect on your app usage

After you have gone through your detox, you will probably want to make some changes in the way you use your phone. 

Therefore, I recommend you to go through all the apps on your phone and ask yourself the following questions for each app:

  1. Why did I install this app in the first place?
  2. How do I usually feel before using this app?
  3. In what moments do I feel the need to open this app?
  4. What feelings am I experiencing after using this app?
  5. How does this app contribute to my life?
  6. How much time am I spending on this app daily?

Most likely, you will notice that some apps truly contribute to your life and are important for your wellbeing, while others actually are impacting you negatively.

Awareness about your app usage is crucial in order to successfully spend less time on your phone in the future.
 

3. Do a phone cleanup

Now that you are aware of the apps that give and take your energy, it is time to do a real phone cleanup.

Are there apps that do not contribute anything positive to your life? Delete them. You don’t need them. The apps that partially contribute to your life can be cleaned up within the app itself. 

For example, I realized that I truly dig Instagram, but that I followed too many accounts that simply did not feel good to me anymore. Therefore, I unfollowed all those accounts, so that I only follow people and companies that truly contribute to my wellbeing. 

Try to see if you can improve your user experience of different apps by undertaking some changes within their settings and your preferences.

Moreover, I recommend you to give the apps that truly contribute to your life a more prominent spot on the home screen of your phone. Place apps that feel addicting somewhere you don’t immediately see them when unlocking your phone screen.

4. Restrict push notifications

Another powerful way to spend less time on your phone, is to restrict your push notifications. Obviously, app developers create these notifications to stimulate you to use their app. 

However, it is wise to consider which apps you want to give this power over your attention. For example, I have turned off push notifications for all my social media apps, because they do not contribute to my health and productivity.

Apps that do stimulate me to feel better about myself and to think good thoughts, are allowed to pop up on my phone. Anything else is silenced.I challenge you to think about which apps you want to allow to send you notifications. You can easily restrict this by going to the settings of your phone.

5. Monitor and restrict screen time

Finally, I found it super useful to monitor and restrict my screen time. 

When you have an iphone, you can easily see the amount of time you spend on your phone in your settings.

Also, you can restrict your screen time by allowing certain apps to only be available within a specific time slot. On my phone, all social media apps are restricted between 9.15 PM and 8 AM on week days and later on the weekends.

Android users can also download apps that help them to monitor and restrict screen time in the play store.

I found this feature to be incredibly powerful, because it reminds me of my intentions every night and breaks the addiction. Therefore, if you want to spend less time on your phone, I highly recommend you to use this feature.

Activities to do instead of spending time on your phone

Once you have found ways to spend less time on your phone, you will realize that you have tons of extra free time. 

You may wonder what to do with this extra time, so here is a short list to inspire you:

  • Go for a walk in nature;
  • Start a creative art project;
  • Bake or cook a new recipe;
  • Go to the movies;
  • Spend time with friends;
  • Journaling;
  • Meditation;
  • Join a Yoga class.

If you’d like to read more suggestions on activities, here is a blog with 111 self care activities that you can try.
 

Time to spend less time on your phone!

Now that you’ve received all these tips, you are hopefully ready to spend less time on your phone.

I am curious: which tips are you going to give a try? Do you have any other suggestions for the readers (and me)? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Photo credits:

Anne-Kathrin Walter
Written By

Anne-Kathrin Walter

Co-Founder of HiSensitives
Anne-Kathrin Walter is a writer, social media expert and the co-founder of HiSensitives. HiSensitives is a personal growth brand for highly sensitive people and empaths. Many highly sensitive people and empaths still see their trait as a weakness, and HiSensitives wants to change that. Therefore, Anne-Kathrin and her partner Riny have made it their mission to make the world a better place for highly sensitive people and empaths. With HiSensitives, they want to inspire HSP's and empaths worldwide to invest more time in themselves and their personal growth.