Starting 2020 with Less Screen Time

Why — and how — I’m trading resolutions for monthly challenges, starting with reducing the time I spend staring at my phone

The Return of Monthly Challenges

In January 2017, in lieu of traditional New Year’s resolutions (which I would typically set and then quickly abandon), I decided to challenge myself to focus on one goal per month.

Some of my ‘monthly challenges’ included Junk Free January, Phoneless February, Meditation March, Alcohol Free April, Social Media Free May, and Journal June. You may have noticed — I love a good alliteration.

The idea behind taking on one challenge per month was to provide focus, and prevent myself from trying to do it all at once, which is one reason why resolutions or new habits tend to be abandoned. Sticking to one challenge per month also enabled me to better isolate the impact of each challenge; to see how changing that one thing in my life made me feel.

It’s (almost) January 2020, and I’ve been reflecting on the past and contemplating my goals for the year ahead. While 2018 and 2019 were both amazing years filled with new experiences and personal growth, I’ve missed the concreteness and accountability that the monthly challenges provided.

So I’ve decided to bring them back, and hope you will join me.

Introducing January’s Challenge

For January, I am challenging myself to spend less time on my phone (alliteration ideas, anyone?). The real goal is to be more present and productive in my day-to-day life, and I believe reducing the time I spend on my phone will be an important way to achieve that.

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Photo by Devon Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash

Limiting the time I spend on my phone has been a goal of mine in 2018 and 2019 according to the resolution lists I found in Notes on my iPhone (ironic, right?!), but I never did much about it. If anything, I feel I’ve gotten even more attached and addicted to my phone.

I think part of the reason I found it difficult to tackle this goal was that it wasn’t measurable — I never knew how much time I was actually spending on my phone to begin with, so it would be difficult to know if I actually cut back, lowering the incentive to do so — you know what they say: you treasure what you measure.

Now with Screen Time on Apple devices, I have no excuse. Screen Time tells you how much time you spend on your phone per day and per week, by category (e.g., Social Networking) and by individual apps. You can even set app limits (e.g., 20 min on Instagram) that notify you and discourage you from using the app once you’ve reached your limit.

I’ve been monitoring my screen time over the past 6 weeks or so, and it has ranged from 22–36 hours per week. That’s about three to five hours per day :0

Considering this is only one of the many screens (work phone, work computer, personal computer, TV etc.) that I use on a daily basis , I found this number to be pretty alarming.

Looking at the breakdown of how I spent my time, I am particularly surprised by how much time I spend on social media and sending messages.

Curious to check out your own Screen Time?

Go to Settings and click on Screen Time (purple hour glass icon). You may need to enable Screen Time if you haven’t used it before. Click “See All Activity” to get the breakdown by individual app, and toggle between your daily and weekly usage at the top of the screen. Swipe across the bar chart area to see your usage over the past few weeks.

Cutting Screen Time by 50%

We all know the best goals are specific and measurable, so I am challenging myself to cut my Screen Time by at least 50% per week (<11–18 hours), with the sub-goal of trying to stay under 2 hours per day.

Here are some of the strategies I’m going to try to reduce screen time:

  • Delete the Instagram app
  • Call instead of texting someone back-and-forth
  • Check email at specific times instead of throughout the day
  • Set other app limits
  • Carry a mini-notebook to jot down notes I would typically put in my phone
  • Leave my phone in my bag when at work or ‘out and about’

Do you have any strategies or suggestions you’ve used to cut down screen time? Let me know in the comments!

Up for the challenge? I’ve already recruited Nicole Yap and Randi Fuchs to join me, and would love for anyone else to join as well, setting whatever Screen Time goal feels right to you.

Happy New Year! Wishing you a more present and productive 2020!

Written by

Professional brainstormer. Amateur cheese connoisseur. Product manager @Mastercard. @Cornell_tech MBA ‘19.

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