3 tips for cutting back on your phone time

Rethink your habits so you control your phone use instead of it controlling you.

A man lays in bed and stars at the iPhone in his hand. Photo: Eren Li

Let’s be honest: our phone usage can get a little out of control. Why wouldn’t it, when there’s a wide variety of apps available for every possible purpose, like managing our shopping lists, tracking physical activity, waking us up in the morning, and managing our spending. And that’s not even getting into the time-suck that is social media.

When we spend too much time on our phones without even realizing it, we end up missing out on important things (and wasting valuable study time). The solution? Taking a more mindful approach to your phone use.  Try these tips to help you be more present with the things happening around you.


Awareness is the first step

Many of us probably aren’t aware of how much time we actually spend looking at our phones. Luckily, most phone models allow us to monitor our daily and weekly screen time. Focus on what categories are engaging most of your time. Once you realize which types of apps you are using the most, you can ask yourself how you end up there. For example, you might check your weather app for a minute or so and then end up spending 45 minutes on Instagram. Recognizing what apps suck you in will make it easier to manage how you navigate through your phone.


Identify your “why”

OK, so you know how much time you spend on your phone and the apps you're using the most. Now it’s important to see what you're getting out of that time. Are you learning new information, connecting with others, passing the time, escaping reality, venting frustration? By understanding your motivations, you can figure out what attachments to address through other healthier coping mechanisms.


Make things harder

Most of us are glued to our phones because they're so easily accessible at all times. If we have an idea for a post, we impulsively open our phones to share it, but then we also check out other posts and are given an endless feed to scroll through. So now this quick post ends up being 30+ minutes of screen time.

Giving up social media can be hard during these times, especially when it connects us with friends and family. But you can make it less accessible on your phone by setting app limits. After a pre-determined amount of time, your phone will block you from using the app. This way, you can take a moment and think about why, when, and what you're using social media for.

Another tip is to keep your phone out of reach while you're working so you're less likely to think about it. If you need to have it nearby for some reason, like you’re using it to listen to music, you can flip it so the screen is facing down.