Three Proven Methods to Reduce Screen Time – and Sticking to It

Have you considered embarking on a quest to reduce your screen time? Have you tried similar techniques before but have not been able to sustain long-lasting change? Maybe you even read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, but it was hard to take concrete actions? Below are three easy techniques (vetted by me and many others) to help you make sustainable changes to reduce your screen time

how to reduce screentime
This is a quest. Back your bags and make sure to sleep well the night before!

Below are techniques to help you make easy changes to reduce your screen time. The list is in ascending order of difficulty and requires more and more commitment as you progress.

how to reduce screentime
No need for a fancy fountain pen, but please grab a sheet of paper. Paper leads to commitment.

There’s no turning back, if you commit to reading this article, you are not allowed to read the next tip until you complete the previous task! Grab some paper (or *sigh* use your notes app) and let’s get started.

ONE. Set your screen to black and white.

Do this right now, close this article and

  • For iPhone, open up Settings app > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Color Filters. Turn Color Filters on, and select Grayscale.
how to reduce screentime
Check to verify that this picture is actually grayscale. Pro-tip, your iPhone pictures will still be saved in color when you take them, even if you only see them as grey.
  • For Android 9.0 and above, access Quick Settings by swiping down twice from notifications and press edit (bottom left) > tap and drag grayscale to the top of the screen
  • For Android below 9.0, Go to Settings > About Phone > Build Number > Tap Build Number 9 times. Then open Settings again > scroll to Developer Options and tap > Simulate Color Space > Monochromacy

Lastly, change your background image to an all black or very dark photo.

help reduce screentime
Example A

For some of these changes to your settings, it’s relatively easy to toggle back and forth, but you must resist toggling for today and continue to resist. Try to hold a “streak” with yourself of how many days you can keep the gray scale. Better yet, forget how to access these settings!

TWO. Turn off notifications.  

You have definitely heard this before. Unless you work in journalism or your output and impact of your work is related to the immediacy to which you can deliver, turn off all non-essential notifications.

  • Think about what and who you really need to communicate with on an urgency or emergency basis.
how to reduce screentime
Emergencies usually require (God forbid) ambulances, so think hard about who is on this list.
  • Write their names down and the apps that you communicate with them through
iphone and depression
Not Instagram. Do not write down instagram. No emergencies are communicated through this application
  • Your final list may be Messages, Phone, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Turn off notifications for all apps except these. For these apps, mute all conversations or group chats that will never need your immediate attention.
I feel bad when I'm using my phone. I feel bad when I'm using my iphone
Mute is a glorious button. You can also selectively mute for certain hours of the day on apps like Slack if your work is “urgent”.
  • More specifically, turn off all lock screen notifications for everything except calls and messages. People know to call when something is truly urgent, and if not communicate to the people close to you right now that this is the case.

“Hi Steph, just letting you know I’m turning off my notifications, so please call me if anything is urgent. Super excited to share my progress…”

Copy and paste this message and send it to your close friends and family.

THREE. Delete apps permanently.

Instead of downloading re-downloading which is common practice among people who want to reduce time on their phone, simply delete these apps once and for all and check them on your computer.

  • Go through your apps one at a time and ask yourself this question, can I check this on my computer?
If you can check things on your computer, check it on your computer!
  • If the answer is yes, delete the app. Twitter? Yes. Instagram? Yes. Gmail? Yes. Delete. Delete. Delete.
Gmail app = slot machine. You can easily check your email at your computer instead of feeling special that your email was “Sent from my iPhone”
  • This is a bit of a painful process, but as you delete, you are gifting yourself hours of your life back to you

But you must be asking,  won’t I just check these sites on my computer? Yes you can, but check out my article here on how to block things on your computer and set up guardrails accordingly.

Now is a good time to explain some of the rationale behind this method. We are trying to increase friction to using your phone.

Black and white makes your phone as unattractive as a newspaper to look at. Turning off notifications means there’s no rush when you receive something new.

Newspapers are pretty boring until you realize they are distraction-free!

Checking things on your computer make you feel guilty about not working when you should be. This all helps answer the question “how to reduce screen time”.

It’s a pretty good time to take a break from this article because I’m sure it has taken a lot of effort to complete these steps.

Check out Part Two after you’ve given yourself a mental break!