In today’s busy digital world, we often find ourselves glued to screens: laptops, TVs and those damn smartphones.
While technology brings many benefits, too much screen time can hurt our well-being, productivity and relationships.
Fortunately, with a little intention and effort, it’s possible to find a balance between your online and offline lives.
In this article, you’ll find 7 practical tips to reduce screen time for adults. They will help you to regain control of your digital habits/screen time and enjoy a more fulfilling, balanced life.
Also, check out the ‘bonus tips’ at the end to get you started immediately.
Let’s dive in and discover how to reduce your screen time.
1. Monitor your screen time
The first step to cutting screen time is understanding where and how you spend your time on screens.
You can use built-in screen time functions or tracking apps to gain insight into your screen time. For your laptop you can check out RescueTime. For your phone, you can use built-in screen time trackers.
Here’s how you can find built-in screen time tracking features:
- iOS: Settings > Screen Time
- Android: Settings > Digital Wellbeing
Once you know how you’re using screens, you can make changes as needed. Set limits on certain apps, use blocking software (more on this later) and intentionally replace unnecessary screen time for non-screen activities.
2. Turn off notifications to reduce screen time
Ah, notifications. Their only purpose is to lure you to their attention.
You may focus on an important work project and then get an email notification in the corner of your laptop screen. Naturally, you get distracted. And even though you may not open it, unconsciously there is a quick urge to see what it’s about.
On phones it’s even worse. Each and every app screams for your attention by sending you notifications, and make your screen light up.
Maybe you didn’t see them right away. But when you later pick up your phone for a specific purpose, you see this “jungle” of notifications that almost can’t be avoided to go through. And before you know it, one of them has sucked you into their app – and you completely forgot why you picked up your phone in the first place.
A simple but effective strategy to reduce screen time is by turning off (most) notifications. Besides screen time, studies show that too many notifications can raise stress levels and hurt productivity.
To do this, adjust your settings so that only important apps or contacts can send you notifications. This way, you’ll stay connected to what really matters without being overwhelmed by distractions.
Read here 10 more reasons you should turn off notifications.
3. Schedule non-screen activities
I want to clarify a common misconception. Turning off notifications, putting your phone at the other side of the room, or other measures will not magically make you do more non-screen activities.
You need to be intentional and plan screen-free activities. If you don’t, it is super easy to fall back to your phone, computer or TV. It’s because our brains are wired to go for the easy thing.
So if you don’t have anything lined up to do, you make it harder for yourself to stick to your screen-free time.
Don’t worry about it sounding “not spontaneous”. Our brains are so used to going to screens for entertainment that they need a little push to do something else.
You could, for example:
- Catch up with your friends face-to-face
- Set up a morning routine doing something you enjoy instead of scrolling Instagram
- Put a book next to the TV remote control and tell yourself to first read for 30 minutes, before turning on the TV (after 30 minutes you’ll probably forgotten about the TV)
- Go for a walk during lunch, instead of sitting behind your desk
Exploring hobbies and interests beyond screens not only brings variety to your daily life but also encourages personal growth and improves your overall well-being.
By enjoying screen-free activities, you’ll build a more satisfying life while naturally reducing reliance on digital devices.
4. Reduce screen time by setting alarms
If you find it hard to take breaks from screens, think about using alarms or a smartwatch to remind you to step back often.
Research shows that regular breaks can boost productivity and lower the risk of muscle and joint issues.
The 20-20-20 rule is a great guide to follow: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to gaze at something 20 feet away. This easy habit helps avoid eye strain and promotes healthier screen habits and overall well-being.
A note on smartwatches: be careful about which notifications you allow your smartwatch to send, so you won’t make it another source of distraction.
5. Keep screens out of the bedroom
We are often used to looking at our phones the last thing before we sleep and the first thing after we wake up.
Or we watch TV from bed or write emails on our laptops while slumped in bed.
Not only can you cut a large amount of screen time by keeping screens out of the bedroom, but it will also significantly improve sleep quality, help you relax and make waking up easier.
So go ahead and move your phone charger cable out of the bedroom 🙂
6. Have a digital detox day
Scheduling a day per week or month to unplug from digital devices can work wonders for your mental health, productivity and overall well-being.
Being surrounded by digital devices and screens can overload your senses and be stressful. A digital detox gives your brain some downtime and helps you to develop a better relationship with technology.
Besides, a regular digital detox teaches your brain that it can do without digital devices and sets you up for less reliance on them.
7. Avoid distractions to become more productive
You may spend more time on your laptop/computer than necessary because you’re constantly distracted and unproductive.
The more you focus, the faster you can finish your work, and the sooner you can step away from your computer.
There are some tools that can help you block social media sites and other distracting websites.
On your computer, I highly recommend Cold Turkey. It is a website and app blocker, allowing you to block whole websites, specific URLs, search keywords or even all the websites. There are even more features, like setting recurring block times, and more. Check it out; it’s free!
You could use AppBlock or Freedom (also for Mac and Windows) on your phone.
Technical bonus tip 1: Set your phone to grayscale
Without colors your phone becomes much less appealing. Instagram, TikTok and even news apps will look dull and unattractive.
This trick works wonders for many people and is easy to implement:
- On iOS: Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Colour Filters > Switch on the toggle. Then go back to Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Select Colour filters.
You can now turn on and off the grayscale colors by triple-clicking the phone’s button.
- On Android: Settings > Accessibility > Visibility enhancements > Color adjustment > Switch on the toggle. There is also a toggle for Color adjustment shortcut, to choose how to start or stop the function.
Technical bonus tip 2: Disable 'Raise to Wake'
If your phone lights up every time you touch it, it’s likely because of the ‘Raise to Wake’ or ‘Lift to Wake’ function.
These ‘wake-ups’ can lead to lengthy, unplanned phone sessions. Turning this off means your phone will tempt you much less.
Disabling the Raise/Lift to Wake:
- On iOS: Settings > Display & Brightness > Switch off the toggle for Raise to Wake.
- On Android: Settings > Advanced features > Motions and gestures > Switch off the toggle for Lift to wake.
Technical bonus tip 3: Keep an eye on your phone screen time
Your iPhone or Android phone keep track of your screen usage. But who’s going to navigate through the Settings to find the numbers?
Luckily, you can place Screen Time or Digital Wellbeing on your phone’s home screen with a widget. Like you would place any other widget, scroll down until you find Screen Time or Digital Wellbeing and choose your preferred widget look.
Now whenever you use your phone, you can easily see how much time you have spent on it.
Let’s get started with reducing screen time for adults
Let’s have a quick look at the tips mentioned in this article:
- Monitor your screen time
- Turn off notifications
- Schedule non-screen activities
- Set alarms or use a smartwatch for breaks
- Keep screens out of the bedroom
- Have a digital detox day
- Avoid distractions to be more productive
Another great way to reduce screen time is by doing a social media detox. To support you on this journey, I’ve created a free Social Media Detox Guide that you can download right below.
It’s packed with helpful tips, strategies and insights to help you regain control of your social media usage.
Don’t wait another day – take your first step towards a more balanced life now. You’ll thank yourself.