Not a week goes by without some new piece of research telling us all how addicted we are to our phones – and how bad for us that is. But with most of us finding it increasingly difficult to just put our screens down and step away from them, what really works to help us try and log-off? After several years of helping others to gain more screen:life balance, these are my personal top six tips:
1. Disable notifications
Our phones light up like slot machines to alert and entice us to answer messages, read emails or see who has liked our latest picture. Some research shows that even just seeing a notification, without responding to it, is enough to seriously distract us from the task in hand.
I have all ‘push’ notifications disabled on my own phone so that I only pick up messages and check apps when I want to. It helps me focus and stops me from reactively checking my phone and wasting time.
2. Remove work email
Ten years ago, if we’d been told that we were expected to work after hours, sometimes long into the night, as well as working at weekends and on holiday, we would have been horrified. And yet with work email installed on our phones that’s what we all do.
One study showed that over 60% of adults now admit to checking work email and taking office calls while on holiday. Removing, or disabling, work email while away from the office is essential for those suffering from our ‘always on’ culture. Your brain really does need some downtime to rest and recharge.
“Over 60% of adults now admit to checking work email and taking office calls while on holiday.”
3. Ban screens from bedrooms
Blue-light emitting screens, which interfere with our sleep-wake cycle, are making us among the most sleep-deprived generation ever. Most of us use our smartphones as our alarm clock, which is why we now have our phones by our bed.
But that means it’s the last thing you check in the evening, the first thing in the morning – and very often what you’re looking at in the middle of the night. Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and ban your phone from your bedroom. You’ll cut out hours of daily screen time with just this one tip. And sleep much better.
4. Go airplane mode
I love airplane or ‘inflight’ mode as a really simple trick to stop me being distracted by my phone. When I’m with friends I set my phone to airplane so that I won’t get any calls, texts or notifications and I can completely focus on enjoying their company. Unlike switching off your phone completely, it only takes a few seconds then to toggle your phone back to being in full-use mode.
“I love airplane or ‘inflight’ mode as a really simple trick to stop me being distracted by my phone.”
5. Declutter your home screen
So much of what’s on our smartphone is really useful (GPS, Google and transport and parking apps are indispensable for me!), but there are also a lot of apps that are total time-wasters. I organise my home screen so that only ‘tools’ are on the first screen I see, with social media and entertainment apps on the second and subsequent ones. The extra few seconds it takes me to reach Instagram and Snapchat really does mean I get sucked into them less.
6. Leave your phone at home
This tip seems likes the easiest but many people find it the hardest! I know that when I first went out without my phone it felt as if I had a limb missing. But I now love going for walks and trips phone-free.
It’s liberating and freeing to just focus on what you’re doing, and the people you’re with, without having one eye permanently on your ‘screen-life’. Try just leaving it behind when you pop to the corner shop and build up to longer periods of time.
Not all of these tips will work for you – but give them all a try and I guarantee one will be a winner. You only need one hack to help you cut down on your aimless screen time to really start seeing the benefits.
For more on this topic, head to Time To Log Off. Pre-order ‘Off: Your Digital Detox For a Better Life’ now, published 3rd August.