Reducing Screen Time in a Virtual World

Between working and learning from home for nearly the last year, it feels like we’re living life almost exclusively through a screen. After being on a screen most of the working hours, we’re glued to screens in our off hours, whether joining a virtual happy hour, binge-watching a favorite show, or just scrolling on our phones. It seems there’s no break lately.

Too much screen time is not only physically harmful (eyesight, headaches, more sedentary), but also messes with our mental health. When we’re always attached to a screen, depression, anxiety, and a fear of missing out on important information starts to creep in.

So, let’s talk about some simple ways to get away from the screen.

Determine where and how your screen time is spent

Like any habit you want to change, you should start with where you are presently. For one week, track how much screen time you’re getting and what you’re spending it on. Some apps can be helpful for starting, like the built-in Digital Wellbeing (Android), or Screen Tim (iPhone), and others such as RescueTime, Clockify, and Timely. Keep in mind, though, that these will help you track time spent on your phone, and not on other devices, such as computer or binge-watching TV.

But, after about a week or documenting your screen time you may see trends where you can make adjustments. Do you spend time throughout the day mindlessly scrolling social media, or going down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos? This information can put into perspective how you typically spend your days and allow you to be more intentional with your time.

Align screen time with your priorities

In this world we live in now, connections with loved ones are so important – even if we catch up over a screen. What brings you joy (real joy), and how can you use your screen time intentionally to find that joy? Chatting with family and friends may bring more joy than watching your favorite show for the 10th time. You don’t have to completely cut out screen time, but you can be thoughtful about how you use it.

Turn off notifications (before and after work/school)

Because most of us are doing all the things from home, some people adjust hours to work when it’s better for them – and it’s not always convenient for us. You may be settling down to read or work on a project, and your get another email on your phone or another Slack message. You can turn off notifications during certain times, and even put your phone in “do not disturb” mode at certain times. If you’re turning off notifications for work-related things, just be sure to set expectations with those that may be trying to contact you.

And remember that “commute” time you used to have each day? Instead of scrolling your phone in bed, use that time to do something away from technology. Take a walk, exercise, meditate, make a delicious breakfast, or simply detach yourself from the stresses of the day.

Look for downtime activities that are tactile

With so much time on screens, it’s refreshing to step away and do sometime more palpable. Is there an old hobby you’ve forgotten about? What about trying a new hobby? Cooking or baking, building a Lego or model set, call someone, create a reading challenge, get creative with are or crafts, do a puzzle, or play a board game. The possibilities are endless to step away from your screen!

Create device free areas

With home being workspace, and workspace being home it all blends together now. And that means work-related stuff easily blends into almost all areas of our living spaces. Maybe you do work from your bed, or the couch because you need a change of scenery. But consider have a couple of “zones” in the house where technology doesn’t enter. Start with the bedroom and bathroom. If your home office is in the bedroom, make your bed itself tech free.

Remember to be kind to yourself about expectations right now. Screens are much more a part of our lives now than ever, and we’re never going to eliminate them from our lives. But, with some thought we can find more balance in our lives.

Illustration by Freepik Storyset

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