I Halved My Phone Screen Time

Christine Baird

Christine Baird

Bangs are back for the summer

After taking a few days off the grid last month (hiking and glamping in Zion National Park for my husband’s 40th birthday), I noticed my weekly screen time report on my phone said I was down 50%, coming in at an average of just under 2 hours a day. And that was an average including 3 days when I was not on my phone more than 15 minutes a day to take photos.

I had a moment of pause and thought, “Wow, what if this was my new normal? What if I don’t go back to an average of 4 hours a day? Will that let me maintain some of the magical peace I felt while on vacation?” I couldn’t resist trying it.

Last week I played a game with myself and diligently kept my phone screen time to under 2 hours a day. Some days were closer to 1 hour and some were right at 2, but I did it! I was so thrilled. It was really fun to think of my phone time as a finite quantity, a precious energetic exchange that I was only willing to make when it was worth it. I checked my screen time report each night to see how I was tracking and got more and more excited as my time on apps like Gmail and Instagram plummeted. I felt like I was winning big.

And in fact I was. I’m not someone who thinks of phones or tech as evil and unnecessary. My smart phone is a SUPER DEE DUPER useful tool that I use for business and my personal life and has drastically improved the quality of my life in many ways. And I’m also human and struggle with the boundary issues that we all do when such massive commercial interests are at play to get and keep our attention. But to feel like I was the conscious user of my phone, versus the other way around, was such a win. Here were the big perks I noticed after 1 week.

  1. I was sleeping better and waking up calmer because I wasn’t scrolling Pinterest and Instagram in the evening or after my morning routine. I also stopped checking my email on my phone, which had become part of my morning routine before I started work, so I truly wasn’t thinking about current events or work to dos until I opened my laptop morning to “start my work day.”
  2. I obviously had more time to read books and take walks and be present to whatever was happening around me, even if it was just me in my home. That presence is a little different when I’m not checking my phone every time I think of something to check.
  3. I didn’t have to charge my phone every night because the battery was actually not very used. I believe this is good for battery life if I’m not mistaken.
  4. I noticed an increase in my energy because I wasn’t giving it to social media apps. This was kind of subtle because I’ve worked very consciously to curate my feeds to be really high quality and a good investment of my time. But I still felt the energy to do more and create more because I wasn’t consuming as much of other people’s posts. I went on the apps to post my own stuff, reply to a few messages, and hop back off, maybe taking 10 minutes to catch the highlights of my closest friends and accounts.
  5. I spent more time in my own mind instead of taking in content from other brands. Again, even great content can oversaturate me at times, and this week was a nice reminder that my mind is a nice place to be when it’s open to its own imagination and creativity.
  6. I found more and more ways to do things without my phone, and I liked it. Going for a run, cooking dinner, working, etc. I often left my phone in another room from where I was because I simply didn’t need it. The physical separation alone felt nice.

So, with that little experiment under my belt, I’ve decided to continue on indefinitely! I’ll be keeping my phone screen time under 2 hours a day for the foreseeable future unless I think of a good reason not to. I’m excited to see how this impacts my life for the long haul. I’m guessing I’ll notice an increase of self-worth, groundedness, calm, and energy. I’ll give you an update when I have something significant to share.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, here are a few circumstances that helped make this experiment easy for me. If you’d like to try a version yourself, I’d love to hear your experience!

a. I have an iPhone and a MacBook, so using iMessage and FaceTime for calls and texts on my laptop was super helpful. I did the bulk of my messaging on my laptop during my “work hours,” so I didn’t need to use my phone nearly as much.

b. Podcast listening and phone calls don’t count as screen time because . . . they don’t require the screen. It reminded me that phones are useful for non-screen activities. I chose not to count Marco Polo as screen time, even though it is, because video chatting is like phone calls in my book.

c. I use my phone as my alarm clock, but if you wanted to really disconnect from your phone at night, you could get an analog clock and that would probably feel even better!

d. At that start of the week, I took a look at my daily averages for each of my top-used apps from the day before so I’d have a baseline to know what apps would be the biggest time-suckers if I didn’t pay attention. This helped me forecast where to make the big shifts in my habits. For me it was Gmail, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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