How not to spend half of my life on my screens

According to the Screen Time feature, I have spent an average of 2-3 hours on my iPhone and 4-5 hours on my iPad every day during the month of May. In total, that is 6-8 hours of screen time every day between those two devices. I have not been using my computer much except for writing so I am not concerned with including that Screen Time for now. What I am concerned about is that I am spending almost or exactly half of my waking hours (16) on these stupid smart devices. On my deathbed, I cannot imagine looking back and being glad that I spent almost half of my twenties on an iSomething screen. The very fact that such a time suck is possible is why I consider the iPhone and iPad to be so addictive. It is why I set my iPhone to greyscale. I often notice when I am feeling unusually down or stressed for no reason that it is correlated with my screen time (iPhone worse than iPad worse than computer). Last night I decided it is time to make a change.

I took some time to write down most of what I do on my iPhone and iPad versus what I want to do on them. In other words, I wrote down my current use versus ideal use and then designed a path to implement the desired change. I have been spending most of my screen time on Twitter, Safari, Messages, and Superhuman (email), with a lesser amount of time on a handful of other apps as well. On Safari, I am often keeping both literal and figurative tabs on stock prices and news and Coinbase to keep an eye on my cryptocurrencies. I have fallen into an old habit of bouncing around between sites like ESPN, CNN, CNBC, and my old friend Yahoo. It feels ridiculous to be finding myself on ESPN so often when there are literally no sports on these days. Nonetheless, let me briefly explain the initial solution that I have designed.

iPhone – I put the Podcasts, RunKeeper, Notes, and Clock apps in the bottom bar. I will aim not to use my phone for any app outside of that bottom bar except for once or twice a day during designated screen time. I have yet to specify what that will be but it should not end up being longer than 30 minutes or an hour in total. I moved Twitter and Safari off of the first page to be less tempting. From previous changes to my phone, my notifications are off for practically everything, the colors are set to greyscale, and the screen is relatively uncluttered. You can see screenshots of my first and second screens on my iPhone below (note: screenshots on greyscale still show the colors).

iPad – Same thing, different apps. I put the the Books, Spotify, Notes, and Calendar apps in the bottom bar. The objective is to limit all use outside of reading and music. Again, I moved Twitter and Safari to the second page. I do not have my iPad on greyscale because it feels almost criminal to rob the beauty from such an aesthetically pleasing machine, but perhaps I will consider it. Same rules apply. I will aim only to operate outside of the bottom bar apps during designated iPhone/iPad time. The 30 minutes to an hour that I referenced above includes both devices and most of that should be spent on the iPad because it is better in every way unless I am on the go. You can see a screenshot of my iPad below. You might recognize the background.

I do not want to spend one half or even close to one quarter of my waking days texting or on Twitter or the internet or habitually checking Instagram, Snapchat, GroupMe, stock prices, Coinbase, CNBC, ESPN, CNN, and Yahoo. Who cares about any of that? It is all junk food for the mind. When I get rid of it, I expect to notice that real food will start to taste better again. The natural sugars of an apple. The natural joys of reading a good book, writing with pen and paper, or simply being outside.

Maybe this is the change that will finally move me to call my friends more. That should be allowed outside of screen time as well. There is a reason we spend so much time on these devices. They are amazing, in moderation. Too much of most anything is a bad thing and several hours on these devices feels like far too much. I am excited to make this change and see it how it goes. I am excited to see what my days will be like with several more hours in them. Even if I were to literally sit and do nothing, I have long believed it is better to do nothing than to do nothing on one’s phone. Let the experiment begin.