Apps to Monitor Screen Time
Before anyone can change a habit, the habit must first be understood. A great way to start managing screen time is to monitor how much time we actually spend on our devices. There are apps out there that not only track the time you spend staring at a screen but also limit which apps you can use at certain times. Some even turn screen time into a game and will reward you and assign points for spending less time on your devices.
Freedom is a great example of a paid app that can sync blocks on all your devices simultaneously. It is available for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS and Chrome. It allows you to start a “distraction free session” as needed, or you can schedule time in advance. Since not all screen time is unproductive, Freedom will let you select apps that should be blocked while allowing you to use the ones that shouldn’t, such as your email. While Freedom does offer a free trial, it normally costs $6.99 a month if you pay every month, $2.99 a month if you pay for the year and $129 for permanent access (currently on sale for $64.50.)
Not only does Freedom help people manage their time, but the company has done research on the effects of screen time on productivity, discovering shocking statistics about what checking phones actually does to people. Checking your email or social media may only take minutes out of your day, however studies show that it takes 23 minutes to refocus afterwards. There is also evidence that multitasking makes us 40% less productive. Finally, distractions are habit-forming, and our brains can literally begin craving the rewards triggered by digital distractions.
Similar to Freedom, ZenScreen has a paid version. However, you can use it for free on up to five devices. This free version offers app usage analytics, quiet time, smart mornings, calm nights, zen breaks, and daily time limits. The only difference between the free version and the paid subscription is the number of devices that can be synced. Syncing more than five devices will cost you $4.99 a month if you pay every month or $3.99 a month if you pay annually.
The ZenScreen smart mornings function will allow you to check your phone when you wake up for only 10 minutes, following a 20 minute break. The daily limit will help you set a time for how long you can scroll on Twitter, Facebook, and other apps. Calm nights will keep your evenings distraction-free for better sleep, since screens before bed are linked to insomnia as well as sleep disruptions. Finally, ZenScreen also allows you to schedule periods of time that are screen-free. This can be set as needed to accommodate a family dinner, for example.
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Using an app to minimize screen time is a great start, but it is not for everyone. Trying to spend less time on your phone by using an app may seem counterproductive. Some simple tips include not taking your phone to the bathroom, having screen-free mealtimes, and not bringing your laptop to bed. Plus, you’ll get the benefits of not overeating and having better sleep. Some families, couples, and even individuals choose to have their bedrooms be “phone-free zones” altogether.
In addition to leaving your devices behind, another great option is to turn off notifications. Many phones have an automatic switch or setting to silence less important notifications such as social media updates. You’ll still receive phone calls, but you’ll have to go out of your way to check if anyone commented on your latest post. This will have you wasting less time while still giving you the opportunity to stay up to date on anything important.
Find Other Activities
Screens and tech can waste more than just our productive time. Looking at your phone during work can harm your performance. However, spending your free time using screens may have negative side effects on your life outside of work as well. Consider swapping TV time with reading a book, discovering a new hobby, or doing something that’s good for your brain, like a puzzle. If you have the energy and opportunity, it can also be great to spend more time being active. For example, have you heard of plogging, an activity that combines jogging with picking up litter? There is much more to explore.
Regular outdoor activities have myriad health benefits. Just a ten-minute walk can help you to focus better, develop improved circulation, and enjoy better sleep. Finding physical activities to do can also be a healthier way to spend time away from the screen. Being out and finding fun things to do can make your life happier and more fulfilling than watching others do it on social media or on TV.
Finding a healthy balance between using technology and enjoying the natural world can do wonders. While technology is amazing and can make our lives better, overreliance and overuse can reduce productivity and have negative side effects on one’s health. Minimizing screen time can make your life better at work as well as in your free time. Luckily, there are many ways to monitor time spent staring at screens and turn it into something healthier for body, mind, and soul.