Breaking Up With My Phone: Making Small Changes to Manage Screen Time

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I’m breaking up with my phone. 

During the month of January, our pastor led our church through a series called Atomic Habits, based on the book of the same name by James Clear. In the second week of the series, he challenged us to think about one to two habits we wanted to break up with in 2021. I spent the next few days evaluating my habits and their impact on my life. When I think about the person that I want to be, the word intentional is always at the forefront of my mind. I want my actions to reflect what’s truly important to me, in every aspect of my life. In the quest toward being more intentional, I often find myself struggling with time. As a woman trying to “balance” married life, mom life, and a career there never seems to be enough time to make it all work. It’s inevitable some balls will drop, but I’ll be honest, my screen time habit isn’t helping. 

At the end of 2020, I was spending on average seven to eight hours a day on my phone. A whole workday! That may not seem like a lot to some, but for me the number of hours was eye-opening. How was that even possible? And when you add in actual work time (all on a laptop) and other streaming, the true amount of time I was connected to a screen was even higher. 

Unfortunately, I know I’m not alone in this. In 2020, we had nowhere to go and were disconnected socially. The screen was literally the only way to stay “connected” to others and the world around me. But I don’t want that to be an excuse. I know my overuse of screens can’t be my new normal. At some point, this pandemic will be over and things will begin to return to “normal.” What happens then?

One of the biggest takeaways from that January sermon series is the idea that small cumulative decisions can make a big difference. My screen time isn’t a habit that developed overnight. I know it will take time to overcome, but I’m determined to make some changes. It’s time to break up with my phone. 

Over the course of the last month, I’ve made some small changes that I have already noticed are having a positive impact. 

  1. Set one hour combined limit for Facebook and Instagram. When I looked at my screen time, most of it was spent on these two apps. Now that I know I have a limit, I’m more conscious of what I spend my time looking at and how often I’m opening each app.
  2. Turned off notifications and set quiet hours for various apps on my phone, including work-related ones. I reviewed all of the apps that I was receiving notifications from and turned off the ones that were unnecessary. I found that the more notifications I received, the more I picked up my phone, which made me more susceptible to random scrolling.  
  3. Set up a designated spot for my phone, specifically during the evening hours. I noticed that it’s hard for me to go anywhere without my phone. I knew it was bad when my two-year-old started bringing my phone to me when I didn’t have it. Now, I’m making a habit of putting my phone on the kitchen counter as soon as we get home in the evening so that I can give my family undivided attention. 
  4. Use my watch to screen my calls and texts. This is an easy way for me to know if I need to respond right away or if it can wait. Again, this helps me avoid picking up my phone and falling into the trap of mindless scrolling. 

Breaking up with my phone hasn’t been easy, but with these few simple changes, I’ve almost cut my screen time in half. For me, it all goes back to awareness. I was not cognizant of how much time I was spending on my phone until I actually looked at the hours. Seeing those numbers helped me realize something needed to shift. Small changes have made a big difference and I plan to continue on this path of breaking up with my phone. 

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