A typical day for many people includes a lot of interaction with a screen. They check social media or the news before they get out of bed. Most of their workday is spent in front of a computer. Then they come home and watch TV, play video games or video chat with friends or family until it's time for bed. It's a great way to stay connected or relax when used in moderation.
However, too much screen time can have several negative effects on your mind and body. The drawbacks go beyond the eye strain caused by blue light and the poor posture that results from remaining in the same position for long periods of time. Excessive screen time may also contribute to sleep disturbances and have the same effects on your body that having a mostly sedentary lifestyle would have. If you notice that you are experiencing lethargy or having difficulty focusing, limiting screen time may be the solution.
Find Your Starting Point
To address any issue, you first need to define it. You may not realize how much time you're spending in front of a screen over the course of a week, particularly if you have a desk job. It's easy to determine, though. All you need to do is track your behavior:
- List all the devices you typically use during the week. This includes computers, tablets, smartphones, televisions and game consoles.
- Create a spreadsheet or grid for the next two months. A blank calendar will work just fine. Since the behavior you're tracking is screen time, it may make sense to use a digital one that you can access from the devices you use the most to produce a real-time log.
- After a week, look at your log and add up the hours. This information may be shocking, but give yourself some grace. The purpose of this step is not to shame yourself but to simply cultivate awareness.
- Set a limit for screen-time hours. This is going to look different for each person. You may choose a different limit for workdays and days off, or you may set an overall weekly limit.
- Continue to log your hours and check them each week. You may be pleasantly surprised by how effective just paying attention can be in working toward your goal.
Adopt a Minimalist Mindset
One practical way to limit your screen time is to minimize the things you use it for. For example, if you choose the two social media accounts you use the most and delete all others from your phone (or better yet, delete your account altogether), you can automatically cut the time you spend checking them without having to give it a lot of thought. The same goes for streaming services. You can take them off all your devices except for one, making it necessary to be in a particular place when you use them. Additionally, you can save yourself time and money by discontinuing the service of those you rarely use.
Enlist the Help of Family and Friends
A perk of limiting your screen time is that it frees up moments to spend with the people you love. They can even help you in your pursuit to unplug more often. Make it a practice to put your phone away when sharing a meal or a special outing with someone. Implement a screen-free night for the whole family in which you do something together that you all enjoy. Instead of watching a movie together, play a board game or go see a live play. There are many things you can do together that don't involve looking at a screen.
Making a few small changes can make a big difference. Before you know it, you will be reducing your screen time and will likely be happier and healthier for it.