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6 Ways To Reduce Your Phone Use

As someone who was born in 1998, I feel like I'm in between the end of the Millennial era and at the start of the Gen Z era. And I mention that because that also relates to tech and phone use. I didn't grow up surrounded by smartphones but I did grow up with computers and television. Phones obviously did exist, but you could only use them for calls or simple texts - no social media, no apps and very few distractions. When we went out to dinner as kids, we were sometimes given a colouring book, and other times nothing. Every time I go out to dinner now, I see not only kids and teens, but also adults buried in their devices. It actually makes me sad that this has become the norm.

Humans are easily distracted, evidently, and tech has exploited that trait most of us seem to possess. So it's even more important than ever to do what we can to not get sucked into this hole of time-wasting because at the end of the day, our time is the most precious thing we can give and have. If we mindlessly allow these distraction-devices to rule how we use our time, they will, in no time, rule how we live our lives. It is definitely possible, however, to be in charge of your phone use and to not let your phone and the notifications dictate everything you do.

So here are a few tips and habits that I've used and built over the years to help reduce my phone use and to not get sucked into the vicious distraction vortex that too many of us are neglecting nowadays:


1. NO SOCIAL MEDIA NOTIFICATIONS

The control that phone notifications have over so many of us nowadays is mind-blowing. Someone once told me that they'd turned off all their social media notifications and only left the 'necessary' ones on. I don't know why I'd never thought of this before, but I went straight to my phone settings and did just that. Needless to say, I haven't looked back since. It seems like such a small change to make, but given that we live in a world basically dictated by our phones, it has made me feel like I have at least some jurisdiction over my time, and I definitely encourage everyone to at least try it out!


2. TIME LIMITS FOR DISTRACTING APPS

On the same note as limiting phone notifications, having set time limits for certain apps is another way that we can have some control over the very things that want us to spend as much time on them as possible. For example, I have a time limit of 45 minutes per day on Instagram. That might seem like a lot for some people and not much at all for others. But I've found that given that I'm from a generation where most of my friends are on Instagram, it is a way I can stay connected to them, especially as we are all living quite separate lives now. But I also want to not get sucked into the seemingly endless wormhole of distraction, so 45 minutes works well for me at the moment. Time limits can be used for any kind of app though, so whatever you find yourself most distracted by, test this feature out and see if it changes your habits for the better!


3. LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN YOUR ROOM AT DINNER

This is a habit that I unintentionally started at the beginning of lockdown last year, and it's definitely been a game-changer for limiting my phone use and being more present! When we were all quarantined at home practically everyday for several months last year, it meant (understandably) that most of us were using our phones even more than we were before. With less things to actually do in the day, it's so convenient to just scroll and get trapped inside your phone. Although I was admittedly in that camp in the day, I decided that dinner time would be a NO-PHONE ZONE for me so that I would actually sit down and enjoy conversations with my family without letting the distraction of whatever's happening inside my phone sit right next to me. The further away your phone is from you, the less you generally think about it, so sometimes I'd go 4 hours in the evening with my phone left in my room and I wouldn't even notice it wasn't on me. It's obviously not always possible and often you need it near you for calls or emergencies, but at least try it out once a week to start and see if it has any impact!


4. USE AN ACTUAL ALARM CLOCK

If you're someone that doesn't need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, you're one of the lucky ones and this one is not for you. But if you do use some kind of alarm in the morning, consider something ground-breaking and try using an ACTUAL alarm clock instead of your phone! Around "48% of all people age 16 to 34 use a cell phone alarm", and the percentage is probably much higher for people aged 16-25. A few years back I invested in a Lumie Alarm Clock which essentially acts as a sunrise in the morning to get you up more gradually, and then sounds after around 30 minutes - by far one of the best purchases I've made! Not only does this not put me in shock-mode from the moment I wake up with the horrible alarm sound, but it also means that I can actually turn my phone off at night and I'm not as likely to just reach for it first thing in the morning and scroll mindlessly.


5. SET A CHALLENGE TO REDUCE YOUR SCREEN TIME EACH WEEK

People tend to be more motivated to do something when it's a challenge, as long as they're somewhat realistic and fun. So although this might not be the definition of 'fun', setting a challenge to reduce your screen time by 10, 20, or 30 minutes each week could be a better way to achieve this. Obviously there are some people whose jobs basically rely on their phones, or at least on the internet, and so screen time is not a black and white issue. However, understanding the difference between screen time that's necessary and not is the key for many. What saddens me the most is that younger kids/teens nowadays can have average screen times of up to 8, 9, 10 hours a day! Those years should be filled with interactions with friends or doing other activities that don't involve phones, so just by setting this little challenge for yourself can really add up over time to help you experience more of life outside your phone.


6. DO 'PHONELESS' ACTIVITIES

I'm very lucky that I grew up not only without much technology, but also doing lots of sports and activities. As I said above, it really makes me sad that so many kids are glued to their phones nowadays instead of being outside, or learning an instrument or even just doing some kind of art. Although sports are not for everyone, I'm certain that everyone has something that they love or can learn to enjoy that doesn't involve technology/their phone. It's so easy and convenient to turn to our phone instead of getting up and actually doing something, so this can be a lot easier said than done. But challenging ourselves to fight the easy activity will have many payoffs. For me, this goes so far beyond not just being on our phones - it really just comes down to experiencing this life that's so short and precious. I hate the feeling of life passing me by, and whilst I could definitely use my phone less than I currently do, I do make it a point to be mindful so that I'm able to look back and say that I didn't waste my days.

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