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10 Strategies for Reducing Your Screen Time

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On the one hand technology has helped us become way more productive. It’s helped automate repetitive tasks and pinpoint when we’re most productive. There’s also an endless amount of information at our fingertips. And, it’s certainly enhanced how we communicate and collaborate with others.

On the other, it can be distracting and gets in the way of creative thinking. Even more worrisome, some believe that we’re straight-up addicted to technology. And, obviously, that’s not ideal for our mental and physical health.

If you think that I’m being hyperbolic here, just know that back in 2016, it was found that we devote more than 10 hours a day on screen time. Honestly, that shouldn’t be shocking since we’re glued to our computers, TVs, and phones.

Speaking of phones, RescueTime reports that on average, we spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on our phones. Additionally, we pick up our phones 58 times per day. However, because of an increase in WFH and socially distancing due to COVID-19, I would suspect that these figures are much higher.

Obviously, that’s going to disrupt our productivity. More troubling? Too much screen time can cause vision problems, impact our sleep, and encourage a more sedentary lifestyle. It can even lead to anxiety, stress, and depression. The reasons? We’re comparing ourselves to others on social media. And, we’re working too much since we’re always available.

Suffice to say, you need to reduce your screen time. And, that’s totally possible by implementing the following 10 strategies.

1. Track screen time and set time limits.

You’re probably thinking that there’s no way that you’re getting too much screen time. And, since you’re in denial, why would you want to limit your usage?

To avoid maintaining your ignorance is bliss mentality. Make the effort to track how much time you actually spend starring at that glorious blue light. Best of all? There are plenty of tools that will do this for you. And, because they run quietly in the background, you can just keep doing your normal routine.

For example, RescueTime monitors the sites and apps you frequently visit and for how long. TimeCamp, HubStaff, and Toggl are some other options you can use.

If you have an iPhone 12, just turn on the Screen Time function in the Settings app. Android users can do this through the Digital Wellbeing tools located within Settings.

Next, you can use this information and solutions to set time limits. For example, if you’ve found out that you’re spending too much time on Instagram, you can tell your phone to turn the app off after two hours of use.

You can also use this data to create a schedule. Let’s say that you don’t want to be interpreted between 8 am and 10 am since that’s when you’re most productive. You can then block apps and websites and this specific time.

2. Keep your phone out of the bedroom.

“Many of us use our phones as alarm clocks, meaning they are the last thing we see at night,” writes Alex Hern in The Guardian. It’s also “the first thing we see in the morning, perhaps even before our eyes are fully open.” That blue light exposure can impact the quality of our sleep. In fact, according to a 2017 study “social media use in the 30 minutes before bed is independently associated with disturbed sleep among young adults”.

Even if you aren’t scrolling through social media, that blue light exposure will also interfere with the quality of your sleep. Moreover, grabbing your phone when the alarm goes off means you aren’t just turning waking-up. You’re now laying there going through your inbox. As a result, you stay in bed longer than planned and get stressed out about the day.

The solution? Charge your phone in another room and avoid looking at screens at least an hour before bed. And, buy an alarm clock as well.

3. Establish tech-free zones.

You know, that last tip got me thinking. What other places should you designate as “tech-free zones?

In my opinion, the bathroom is on the top of the list. It’s unhygienic and just distracts you from doing your business and moving on. I’d also say the dining room or anywhere else you eat. Again, it’s gross and you can use this time more wisely like having quality time with your family or getting to know your team members better.

4. Leave your phone behind.

If you were to contact me during off-hours, like during the evening or weekends, it’s going to take hours for me to respond. You might not even hear from me until the next day or two.

I’m not ignoring you. It’s just that my phone isn’t by my side. For example, if decided to go on a hike my phone is probably in the car — or at least in silent mode and tucked away in my backpack. Even if I’m just kicking back and reading, the phone is nowhere near me.

For some people, this may frighten them because of FOMO. But, in all seriousness, if you gradually work your way up, you’ll notice that the world will keep spinning if you occasionally leave your phone behind.

5. Remove unnecessary apps.

When you have a couple of minutes, go through your phone and remove the unnecessary ones. For instance, if you only use social media for work, then uninstall them. The same goes for Netflix, Hulu, or any other app that tempts you into mindless usage.

6. Switch to grayscale.

Both iOS and Android allow you to turn your phone’s display grey. As a result, this will remove all the beautiful colors from your screen.

Why is this successful in curving your phone addiction? Because now they’ve lost their visual appeal.

For iPhone users, head into Settings. Next, select Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Color Filters. And, finally, toggle the switch on so that the Grayscale option appears.

Android users can do this by opening up the Setting panels and going into Digital Wellbeing. Chose Wind Down and you can either turn Grayscale on now or schedule it for a later time.

7. Schedule more face-to-face meetings.

I know that Zoom and video calls are all the rage. And, while they’ve been helpful, they also cause fatigue.

Instead, set up an old fashioned phone call. Or, even better, schedule a face-to-face meeting.

“In-person meetings provide a sense of intimacy, connection and empathy that is difficult to replicate via video,” Paul Axtell, corporate trainer and author of the book “Meetings Matter.” told The Washington Post. “It’s much easier to ask for attentive listening and presence, which creates the psychological safety that people need to sense in order to engage and participate fully.”

Even more impressive? Face-to-face requests are 34x more effective than emailed ones.

8. Take a look, it’s in a book.

Back when I was a wee lad, my parents purchased a really nice Encyclopedia Britannica set. I used these books from elementary to high school whenever I needed to look up a piece of information. For more in-depth research, the local library was already an excellent resource. Or, I would ask my elders to answer questions.

Believe it not, books and libraries are still in existence. I know it’s fast and convenient to use your phone or ask your smart device to answer a question. But, instead of relying solely on technology, seek out other ways to access information.

9. Don’t take as many pictures.

For most of us, this has become second-nature. Regardless if you’re at a birthday party, sporting event, concert, or traveling you take an excessive amount of pictures. Why is that a problem? Well, three different studies have found that photo-taking interferes with making new memories.

That’s not saying that you have to be anti-picture. It’s just that you don’t have to over snap. Instead, enjoy the moment by leaving your phone elsewhere.

10. Pick-up a new hobby.

I’ve been guilty of this in the past. It’s a Saturday afternoon and the weather isn’t nice enough to go outside. I’ve already cleaned the house and did a little work. But, now I’m getting bored. What do I do? Instinctively grab my phone or laptop and just start browsing.

To combat this, pick-up a new hobby that doesn’t require much screen time. Reading a book, any type of physical activity, or crafts are tech-free hobbies to engage with during downtime.

What are Your Top Productivity Strategies?

By | Time Management | No Comments
Business professional sitting outside working on laptop next to spring flowers

When you think about it, most things in life are subjective. Your favorite color, food, band, or movie? They are your personal favorites — no matter what anyone else says. In other words, there’s no right or wrong answer. In a way, the same is true of productivity strategies. What makes a top productivity strategy for me may not fly with you. And, what works for Elon Musk, Oprah, or your best friend may not be a useful technique for you.

Like your favorite food or music — you want to share your favorites with others. Who knows? Maybe all the famous ones would agree with you? That’s why we’ve collected some of the top productivity strategies for you to implement. Hopefully, you can use them to boost your productivity.

But, if one way to productivity doesn’t work for you, then try out the next suggestion you hear about. Or, even better, make some adjustments and make it your own. You will find a strategy that will work for you. Just keep trying.

Stack your habits.

“You probably have powerful habits and connections that you take for granted each day,” James Clear writes in “Atomic Habits.” “For example, your brain is probably very efficient at remembering to take a shower each morning or to brew your morning cup of coffee or to open the blinds when the sun rises — or thousands of other daily habits.”

But, did you know that you can “take advantage of these strong connections to build new habits?” It’s possible with something called habit stacking.

Basically, this is where you “identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.” And, you’ll use the following formula to achieve this: After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

Here’s an example from Clear; “After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.” After meditating, you would write your to-do-list for the day. And, after that, you would begin working on your first task.

The key is to make sure that “the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.” When it is, you’ll have clear goals that will add-up to small wins over time.

Stand on your (Eisenhower) soapbox.

A priority matrix is one of the most effective ways to prioritize your lists. In turn, this will make you more productive since it encourages you to focus only on what you need to get done. And, even better, it keeps distractions at bay by ensuring that you don’t fall into the urgency trap.

One of the most popular priority matrixes around is the Eisenhower Matix. I’ve written and spoken about this before. Named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and first supreme commander of NATO, this principle is extremely simple to do.

“Create a four-quadrant box and place all of the items on your list into one of the following quadrants,” explains Calendar’s Angela Ruth:

  • Urgent and important. Tasks that you will do immediately.
  • Important, but not urgent. Tasks that you’ll schedule for later.
  • Urgent, but not important. Anything that can be delegated to someone else.
  • Neither urgent or important. These should be eliminated from your list and schedule.

“If you have multiple items in the urgent and important box, assign each item a number,” says Angela. “For example, if you have a task that’s due to today, then that would be assigned the number one since that’s your main priority for the day.”

Get magically whisked away to 1918 with the Ivy Lee Method.

For over a century, this has been a popular productivity technique that’s helped people regain control of their schedules.

Named after Ivy Lee, a productivity consultant hired by leaders like Charles M. Schwab, this is a night routine that only takes 15-minutes. When your home is quiet, “jot down the five or six most important things you want to accomplish the next day.” Next, you’ll put them in order, “starting with the most important task first thing in the morning.”

“The Ivy Lee Method is so effective because by planning your day the night before, you reduce decision fatigue and reserve your energy for your most meaningful work. You wake up knowing exactly what you’ll be working all day instead of wasting valuable time and energy making decisions in the morning.”

Write over 40-books using this 15-minute morning routine.

Anthony Trollope is a fascinating historical figure. From 1843 to 1883, he wrote 47 novels, 17 non-fiction books, two plays, and over 20 articles and letters. What makes this even more impressive? He did this while holding down a full-time job as a post office inspector.

So, how was he able to achieve such a feat?

Well, he had a dedicated morning routine that supercharged his productivity.

“It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 A.M., and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy,” Trollope noted his Autobiography. “It had at this time become my custom, and is still my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient of myself, to write with my watch before me, and to require of myself 250 words every quarter of an hour.”

“This division of time allowed me to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results, three novels of three volumes each in the year.”

So, let’s break this down.

Because he already had a packed schedule, Trollope had to get creative by finding any possible free time. That meant waking up early and writing before going to work.

Next, he had to make sure that he didn’t waste any of this valuable time. He accomplished this through timed writing sessions. It’s similar to the Pomodoro Technique, where he only concentrated on writing for specific amounts of time — aka, no multitasking.

Finally, Trollope also tracked his progress. He was known for keeping track of how many pages he wrote each day to keep the momentum going.

As Trollope himself discovered, “A small daily task — if it be really daily, — will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules.”

Adhere to the Five Project Rule.

Throughout my life, I’ve known so many people who are always jumping from one thing to the next. The problem isn’t that they aren’t motivated or driven. It’s just that they never finish what they started.

“If you’re always starting interesting projects and not finishing, then no matter how hard you work, you’re just busy, not productive.”

It’s true. You may have learned some things along the way. But, you don’t get that release of dopamine when you finish something. That may not sound like much, but when you feel good and proud of your finished result, you want to keep repeating that behavior.

Additionally, there’s the Zeigarnik Effect. In a nutshell, this refers to “the tendency to better remember unfinished tasks than completed ones.” As such, this creates cognitive tension where uncompleted tasks stay on the top of your mind until finished.

While that can be used to your advantage, like overcoming procrastination, it can also be a distraction. Besides, at some point, you may have to circle back to this unfinished project. And that can be a waste of time and energy. It’s pretty great always to finish what you start.

A simple way to start finishing what matters is to use the “Five Project Rule.” It’s a concept described by Charlie Gilkey in “Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.”

“You will never be able to do all the things you think you might want to do,” Gilkey told John Lee Dumas. “And that’s just part of being human. But when you accept that fact, you can get down to three to five active projects.

“Active projects are the ones that you’re pushing for,” says Gilkey. “You’re working them. They’re on your virtual or physical desktop. You’re touching them daily.”

Adopt an A/B schedule.

As Andee Love explains in a Fast Company article, this is where you divide your “schedule between ‘A’ and ‘B’ weeks for different types of work.” The reason why this is effective is that it keeps you energized since it lowers the cost of context switching.

If that’s something you would be interested in, then here’s how to get started:

  • Examine your current schedule. “Look closely at how many hours you’re spending on each task, or the role your work demands,” writes Love. “Then imagine what it would look and feel like if you put each into its own block, day or week.” For example, could you schedule all of your meetings in one or two days per week?
  • Communicate. Once you’ve blocked out your time, let others know. Personally, the easiest way to do this is by sharing your calendar. Remember, if someone wants to meet with you, for example, they’ll see this is only an option on select days.
  • Tinker. Play around with your new schedule until it works for you.
  • Keep your health in mind. Don’t forget to “build adequate rest breaks, movement, and time for healthy eating into your schedule.”

Pop from location to location.

Here we have a productivity hack from Joel Runyon on Impossible HQ. It’s called ‘Workplace Popcorn,” and it goes like this:

  • List everything that you need to do today. Be as specific as possible.
  • Break that list into three equal sections. “These sections should be equal in terms of how much time they’re likely to take to complete,” writes Runyon. “If you’re not sure how long a task will take, guess.”
  • Here’s where the popcorn fits in — find three different places to work. So, for your first list of tasks, you would work from home. You would “pop” over to a coworking space for the second list. And, for the third list, you could work from a cafe.

Follow the Law of Least Effort.

Are you sitting down for this? Long hours don’t make you more productive. According to a Stanford study, productivity declines after someone has worked for more than 50 hours. It’s such a dropoff that putting in more hours would be pointless.

“Busyness is not a means to accomplishment, but an obstacle to it,” writes Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a Stanford scholar and author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.” That’s because we often define ourselves by our “work, dedication, effectiveness, and willingness to go the extra mile,” so working less is often viewed as a barrier to success.

I know. Getting more done by doing less may sound like a pipe dream. But it’s possible. One such way to achieve this is adopting a spiritual law of success known as the Law of Least Effort.

Kabir Sehgal and Deepak Chopra explain in a CNBC article that this “law is based on the idea that nature’s intelligence functions with the effortless ease of action and without resistance.” And, it’s easy to incorporate into your life:

  • Accept your current situation. It’s a simple way to stop “reacting to the events around you and instead encourages you to simply acknowledge them” and stay in the present.
  • Take accountability for your current situation. Don’t point fingers or let negativity drag you down. Admit your mistakes, learn from them, and grow.
  • Detach yourself from ‘who gets the credit.’ Stop getting caught up in nonsense that throws you off track. Instead, “focus on the items that truly matter and give meaning.”

Tap into the power of solitude.

“It’s important to spend time around people,” writes Amy Morin. “You can improve your habits and learn new things when you’re surrounded by interesting people.” And, as found in the popular 80-year Harvard study, relationships help us live longer and make us happier.

However, spending too much time around people “might also be a bad thing,” states Morin. “Our digital devices often make us feel like we need to be connected 24/7.” And, even worse, “all of the noise, activity, and hustle can wear you out (and ironically can leave you feeling lonelier than ever).”

That’s why despite getting a bad rap, we should occasionally embrace solitude. In addition to being “an essential component to your health and well-being,” spending time alone can make you more successful by:

  • Helping you get to know yourself better.
  • Breaking down “we vs. them” mentality, which can improve relationships.
  • Being alone fosters creativity.
  • Improving your psychological well-being.
  • Allows you to plan your life.

Additionally, in “Time Management,” written by Fabien Weisberg, solitude, can “help you become better at managing your time effectively.” The reason? “Being alone is when you need to figure out what you need and want to do.”

Does this mean that you have to go off the grid and disappear for an extended period? Nope. “Just 10 minutes of alone time each day could be enough to help you rejuvenate from the daily grind,” writes Morin. Too bust for this simple activity? Then block out some alone time in your calendar in advance like you would with an appointment or meeting.

During this time you could go for a walk, meditate, or sit quietly in your office. Just remember to “silence your electronics and allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts.”

Do you have a favorite productivity strategy? Let us know all about it!

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