how to spend less time on phone

Put the Phone Down: Here’s How to Spend Less Time on Your Phone and Simplify Your Life

One thing that slows me down and stops me from enjoying life is my phone. I let it steal too much of my time. It encourages me to compare myself to others and distracts me from what I need to do. Unfortunately, I’m not alone.

Data from Exploding Topics reports that the average American spends 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phone–smartphone users average nearly 4.5 hours every day. Americans check their phones an average of 58 times a day (almost 30 times at work alone). Exploding Topics found that the average user picks up their phone within three minutes of the last pick-up.

In this article, we’re dishing out tips on how to spend less time on your phone and simplify your life.

Benefits of Cutting Back on Phone Time

Gone are the days when phones were used strictly for verbal communication. Smartphones are used for tracking, taking notes, gaming, social media services, Googling, watching YouTube videos, checking email, and so much more.

The line between personal use and excessive use is thin. And sometimes, it’s hard to see when it’s causing a problem. Here are a few things to think about the next time you’re on the phone:

  • A University of Washington study found that limiting social media use to less than 30 minutes each day improved well-being, decreased fear of missing out (FOMO), and decreased anxiety.
  • Less time on the phone means more time to do something else. Productivity and physical activity levels increase with less phone time.
  • The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, found that less screen time allowed the brain to slow down and focus without distraction. Limited screen time improves cognition, memory, attention, and the speed at which the brain processes information.

How to Spend Less Time on Your Phone

Despite our technology-driven society telling us the expectation is to answer your phone, answer the text, and respond to email immediately. But it doesn’t have to. You don’t have to.

Simplify your life and discover more enjoyment without the phone. People will change their expectations of you when you help shape them. Start making small changes with these three tips.

1. Track Your Phone Use

Measure how much time you spend on the phone for one day. Knowing how much you use the phone can be eye-opening and motivate you to limit its use. The iPhone and Android devices have features to track screen time and see the average daily time spent on social media apps, emails, and talking.

2. Turn off Notifications.

Notifications can be valuable. But they can be too much. Sometimes they come through one right after the other, and they’re distracting. They’ll unknowingly cause you to spend more time on the phone than planned.

Badge icons for apps can be hard to ignore. Go ahead and turn them off. It’s better to not know than be left wanting details on the notification. Turning off badge icons can help resist the urge to open apps like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram 20,000 times a day.

Soon you’ll see you didn’t need all of those notifications. You’ll appreciate other things in life than focusing on your phone.

3. Only Use Your Phone During Designated Times.

Reduce the time you spend on the phone by having dedicated blocks of time for phone use. Try to allow yourself to check social media and email during specific times of the day.

Set the alarm to use the phone for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. Every other hour check for missed calls and messages. And stop looking at your phone during lunch, while playing with the kids, and working.

When you are in the middle of something important and someone calls or texts you, respond with a simple, “I can’t talk now. Can I call you later?” Or better yet, let it go to voicemail and call them back when it makes sense for you to do so. When you get an email you don’t have time to adequately respond to, mark it as unread, so you don’t forget to reply later.

4. Turn On Do Not Disturb

If you can’t control your actions, turn on the Do Not Disturb. This simple action silences distractions like notifications, phone calls, and texts. You’ll spend less time on the phone without those triggers.

5. Put Your Phone Away.

Sometimes, you literally need to put your phone away. If you can see it, it may be too tempting to pick up your phone.

I have set up our charging station in the bedroom, so when I don’t want to be dinking around on my phone, I plug it in and walk away. It’s still close enough that I should hear it ringing, but it’s not so close that I find myself picking it up out of habit and not because I need it.

Make a habit of putting your phone away when spending time with the people you love. Give them your undivided attention so those relationships continue to grow. The people who love you will appreciate that you are trying to use your phone less and become more present in your own life!

6. Learn to Say No

You don’t have to be available 100% of the time. Set boundaries to protect your time and learn to say no. Ensure your family and colleagues know about your protected time and set appropriate expectations for returned messages.

7. Take Email off the Phone

Despite being able to do almost anything with a phone, try not to do it. What can you remove from your phone and build a habit of doing something differently?

Try taking email off the phone and only check email on your computer or at work. It’s probably not as convenient, so you’ll do it less. Do emails need to be addressed immediately?

8. Find a New Hobby

Everyone loves a new hobby. What have you wanted to try that you haven’t had time to do? Find a new hobby, and you’ll naturally have less time on your phone.

9. Start a New Exercise Program

With less time on the phone, you’ll have more time for the things you want to do.Try starting a new exercise program. There’s no way to exercise and use the phone simultaneously. It’s a perfect plan.

10. Create a New Goal

What do you want to do with your life? What are your goals? Do you have a bucket list, financial goal, or life goal that you’ve been thinking about doing?

With freed-up time now’s a great time to create a new goal and work on it. You’ll likely find it easier to reach your goals with the cognitive benefits your brain picks up with less screen time.

11. Delete Unnecessary Apps

How many apps are on your phone? Do you even know?

I’m sure you have pages and pages of apps. We’ve all downloaded something that we thought was amazing. However, in the end, it was unnecessary and went unused. So, clear up the clutter to save time scanning through apps and focus on what you need to do.

12. Limit Access to Certain Apps

Only you know your weaknesses. Be honest about it and limit access to it with an app like Offtime, Flipd, Moment, or BreakFree. These apps track your screen time and hold you accountable.

Breakfree provides an addiction score, Offtime tracks your screen time, and Moment tracks your use and floods you with annoying reminders to turn the phone off. Of course, if that’s not enough, Flipd takes it to the next level by locking you out of your phone if that’s what you need.

Stay on Task is another app that may help you use the phone less. It’s more focused on asking you if you’re meeting your goals. It’s perfect for people that get distracted. The gentle reminder is just enough to motivate you to do a digital reset for the moment.

13. Move Distracting Apps From the Home Screen

You spend the most time on the home screen. So, why not move distractions off it.

Moving distracting apps away from the home screen minimizes unconscious triggers to use apps more than you had intended. The extra step to swipe right makes using an app less appealing.

14. Use an Alarm for Phone Time

Time flies by. Especially when you’re doing something mindless. So, set an alarm when you use the phone. This trigger will remind you how long you’ve been on the phone and motivate you to do something different.

15. Create a Morning Routine

For most of us, the first thing we do in the morning is check our phones. What if you postponed it for 15 minutes? Do something different when you wake up. Try meditation or taking a moment for gratitude. Replace phone use with something meaningful and watch your life priorities change.

16. Rely on the Phone Less

Today, a phone acts as a personal assistant, a form of entertainment, and a reference device. Think of things you do with your phone that can be done with something else. How about the following:

  • Use an alarm clock
  • Check your email on the computer
  • Only watch YouTube on the computer
  • Use an e-book reader like Kindle instead of your phone
  • Try a smartwatch to check texts
  • Use a smart speaker like Alexa or Nest for weather updates or to add things to your to-do list

Shake Up Your Phone Habits to Save Time

Excessive screen time is associated with fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, reduced attention span, increased impulsivity, and decreased patience. And very quickly, the amount of time spent on the phone becomes excessive.

While most people can regulate the amount of time they spend on the phone, spending less could be beneficial. These mini-habits are sure to improve your discipline to spend less time on the phone, find other things to do with your time, and get off social media.


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  1. I love what you said about not having the phone while eating with others. When I’m with other people I always put the phone away, for me it’s kind of rude in a way to be with people and scroll through your phone… Love this post 🙂

    1. Thanks for checking out my article! That drives me crazy too! But sadly, if I have my phone on me I get distracted and am tempted to do the same. Not bringing it or silencing it and keeping it in my purse helps a lot!

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