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Two mobile phones next to each other, one with a coloured screen and the other with a black and white screen

Do tips for cutting screentime work? Let’s find out.

Published 28 May 2024

I tried 11 tips from the internet to use my phone more mindfully

Ever looked for tips to use your phone less, then decided the author was probably too wholesome to be relatable? Same. So, I decided me – a person with many phone-based proclivities – should be the judge of them. Here’s my screentime before I started:

So, what does the internet recommend?

1. Turning your phone grayscale

I found it hard to believe taking the colours off my phone screen would make my phone less addictive. But what kind of expert am I? Let’s try it:

2 phones side by side unlocked showing their home screen, one in colour and one greyscale.

The verdict: 7(???)/10. It feels like I’m using my phone in a parallel universe. I feel troubled when I look at it. (It might just work.)

2. Setting a sleep schedule

I set my phone to stop notifications from 11pm to 7am.

The verdict: 6/10. No phone lighting up at bedtime = good. But a giant hand coming out of my phone and slapping me in the face when I’m playing sudoku to ‘get to sleep’ would be better.

3. Banishing your charger from the bedroom

I thought only extremely healthy and well-adjusted people do this, so I felt like a fraud doing it myself.

The verdict: 9/10. I’m using the alarm on my watch, which wakes me up by vibrating inches from my face, which is horrifying. But I’m reading more before bed, falling asleep more easily, and not checking my phone first thing in the morning, which is good.

4. Turning off notifications at work

I set my phone to block all notifications except from my boss from 9am to 5pm. No screen lighting up = fewer delicious internet temptations.

The verdict: 6/10. Good shout if you need to have your phone on hand for work, but you’ll probably still wonder what goodies await when you unlock it.

5. Putting your phone out of sight

I read this study on phone use and brain drain that found having your phone even near you “reduces available cognitive capacity”. Yikes. Into the locker it goes.

The verdict: A firm 10, maybe 11. Who knows how successful I could have become if I’d done this earlier in my career.

6. Deleting your time-sapping apps

I didn’t do this. What’s the point of having a phone if I can’t use it for the things I want? Plus, I can see how it’ll go:

  1. Delete the app.

  2. Think about the app.

  3. Use my browser to access the app, or re-download it, both of which take more time than if the app had have just been there.

The verdict: NA/10. Friends have told me stripping out lots of apps made their phone so boring that they didn’t want to use it. I, however, will only delete an app if I’m spiritually ready.

7. Setting app restrictions

Haha yeah right.

The verdict: 🤡/10. If you think the meme-hungry gremlins inside us all will respect time limits or usage windows when they know they can change them, you are wrong.

8. Putting your apps in folders (uuugghhh)

I hate everything about this tip because:

  • It was hard to decide which apps went together (is Wordle ‘culture’?)

  • My screen looks weird

  • Apps are harder to find (I know this is the point, but still)

The verdict: 8/10. I hate it. And I hate that it works.

9. Turning your phone off

It felt so weird to turn my phone off for no reason that I sent a text to my sisters to let them know first, in case they worried.

The verdict: eh/10. More annoying and no more effective than putting it in another room on silent.

10. Banning apps from notifying you

You know when your phone lights up and you get that rush of excitement only to find it’s a ‘10% off your next ride’ announcement? Let’s turf them.

The verdict: 🙌/10. Boring app notifications are like a friendly person at a party when you’re desperate for someone to talk to, who goes on to show you 150 photos of their niece’s dance recital. Avoid.

11. Finding something else to do

Most of the times I mindlessly pick up my phone, it’s because my eyes and hands want to work on something together. So I tried a jigsaw instead.

The verdict: Big wholesome yes out of ten. Not only did the puzzle let my mind wander to interesting places, it was also something I could do with someone else. Nicer than disappearing into a phone screen.

So, how’d I go?

Keeping my phone out of sight was by far the most effective thing for me.

I’ll definitely keep doing it while I’m working, and maybe extend this to other things like watching a movie or eating dinner. The charger is also staying in the next room (#wellness). Grayscale, app folders and my sleep schedule will all be sticking around too.

And for the statisticians out there, here’s the data:

Not pictured: the completed jigsaw puzzle.

Down the wormhole

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