Almost every article and book written about how to reduce screen time is about kids. This is so wrong! I know it’s an important issue and parents struggle with how to limit screen time, but hardly anyone is talking about how adults can and need to reduce screen time.
Screen time is just as much a problem for adults as it is for kids, and us adults don’t have parents concerned and setting limits for us, right?
We talk about wanting to live in the moment and develop deeper relationships. We complain about how we have no time for hobbies or exercise — but no one is willing to put their *bleep* phone down. OK sorry, I’ll calm down. This is a big frustration of mine.
Let’s get practical. I’m not against screens. I’m against the time-suck of mindless scrolling which can feel like time to decompress and relax after a long day, but isn’t actually truly relaxing at all.
I’ve been spending much less time on my phone and tablet and more time reading and spending quality time with Austin. Here’s what has worked for me:
5 Strategies for Adults to Reduce Screen Time
1. Put Your Devices in the Next Room
The first time I did this, I started to realize how addicted I am to my devices.
While we were hanging out in the living room, I put my phone and iPad on the kitchen counter — close enough to hear if I got a call. Every few moments, I felt this impulse to reach for the iPad to check social media or my email — things that did not need to be done and certainly not every few minutes!
The simple act of putting your devices in the next room forces you to think twice when you would normally grab your phone without even realizing it.
This is the most powerful strategy I have found to reduce screen time. And so easy!
If you get a text or call, you can get up and check on it, but leave your devices in the next room. I sometimes even force myself to stay standing in the kitchen if I want to look something up. The slight discomfort when I’d rather be flopped on the couch keeps me from scrolling and getting distracted.
I challenge you to try and do this for just one hour tonight to see how it feels!
2. Decide What You Want to Do Instead
Why do you want to reduce screen time? What would you rather do with your time?
For me, I want to read, play video games with Austin, and watch shows without simultaneously scrolling through Instagram (single-tasking!). Yes, some of those things are still “screen time” but they are intentional, which is my main goal.
Knowing what I want to do with my time helps keep me off of my devices. Every time I catch myself reaching for my iPad I try to think about what I really want to be doing with my time. Let’s face it, checking email “real quick” usually turns into a wasted 45 minutes. I’d rather be reading.
Come up with a list of things you want to do that you think you don’t have time for. When you put away the screens, do those things! It will reinforce the positivity of less screen time when you realize that you’re getting to do more of what you want.
3. Move or Remove Apps
Which apps are the biggest time-suck for you? Is it Facebook, Instagram, Plants vs Zombies, or just your internet browser?
If you’re feeling brave, delete those app completely!
If you don’t want to get rid of it, move it. Take it out of its prime location and hide it on a different page or in a folder. The slight inconvenience of having to do a couple of extra steps to open it can be enough to stop you.
You can also put a different app in its place. Move your Facebook app into a folder on your second page of apps and put the Kindle reading app right where the Facebook app used to be. You’re so used to clicking that spot on your screen that you might find yourself opening the Kindle app and reading instead of scrolling through obnoxious political opinions from your friends.
4. Ask for Accountability
Your spouse, kids, or roommates can make great screen time accountability partners.
The other night, I handed my phone to Austin and told him that the only thing I wanted to do on my phone that night was order someone a birthday present. I asked him to only give me my phone if I was going to do that, and not to let me do anything else. It worked perfectly!
You could say that you want to spend 6-8pm off of all devices and let everyone in the house know. I bet they’ll help you stick to your commitment!
Or do like I did and decide what you want to use your devices for, if anything, and ask for accountability that you will only do the pre-determined tasks. This can really help you think through what you actually need your phone for and use it with much more intention.
5. “Wherever you are, be all there.”
This quote from Jim Elliot sums up what I want in life in general, and definitely with my screen usage.
I’ve grown sick of spending evenings half-watching a TV show while scrolling through social media on a different device. I have no problem with watching shows. But if a show is good enough to watch, I want to actually watch it.
If I’m playing a game with Austin, I want to be fully there, engaged in the moment. Reading gives me the opportunity to fully engage because it’s hard to read and do anything else at the same time.
I keep this quote in my mind because I don’t want to multi-task. I want to be all there.
These strategies have made a big difference in the amount of mindless screen time I have.
I actually find that I have plenty of time for reading, exercising, and playing games with Austin when I am more intentional about when I’m on my phone, iPad, and computer. Crazy, right?!
I hope my experience encourages you to try some of these things so that you can enjoy living life with less screen time!