10 things that will help you cut down on screen time
Finally, get your phone off your back.
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Does anyone else feel personally victimized by their smartphone? As I spend more time at home in social isolation, it feels like every week I get a new report that my screen time has increased. Not great. But between responding to texts to stay connected with friends and family to mindlessly scrolling through social media to downloading a ton of games to pass the time (curse you, Stardew Valley), it makes sense that my screen time has steadily increased.
While finding ways to keep ourselves entertained isn’t necessarily a bad thing, studies have shown that the blue light emitted by these screens can disrupt sleep patterns and that both games and social media can be addictive. Personally, I’ve been feeling like I could make better use of my spare time—and thankfully there are a few products to help us keep our hands off our phone.
From simple things like an alarm clock to technology that will help you use less technology, I’ve rounded up 10 things that will keep your hands off your phone—so hopefully we can all be a little more productive.
1. A Kindle for easy reading
Reading before bed is my go-to for reducing blue light before bed. Seriously, it puts me right to sleep. I prefer to read on a Kindle because it has a seemingly unlimited library and I don’t have to worry about lugging a large book with me. The Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader we’ve ever tested as it has an incredible interface and it’s waterproof. Although it technically has a screen, the Paperwhite mimics reading a book with e-ink display, as well as various levels of illumination and background colors to put less strain on your eyes.
2. An alarm clock to keep your phone out of your room
Many of us use our phones as our alarm, which makes it tempting to use right before bed or, worse, you wind up playing a game after checking the time when you wake up in the middle of the night (guilty as charged). An easy solution: Get an actual alarm clock. That way you can charge up your phone in another room, and can still check the time to actually get some rest. One of my coworkers loves her Philips Wake Light because it mimics the sunlight, which makes it easier for her to get up in the morning.
3. A knitting kit to keep your hands busy
Trying to keep your hands busy with something other than your phone? Try knitting. It’s a relaxing hobby (always good in a stressful time) and you’ll get a homemade creation out of it. For beginners, I recommend learning with a knitting kit like We Are Knitters. I tried a few kits out for myself and was impressed by how clear the directions were and how high quality the wool is. It made re-learning how to knit attainable, and could be a great hobby to pick up.
4. A smartwatch to quickly check notifications
Yes, I know, it’s another screen. But, a smartwatch is a small screen that can actually keep you from pulling out your cell phone. Instead of going down a rabbit hole of social media or other apps after answering a text, you can just program your smartwatch to only show you important notifications, so you can quickly respond and move on. The Apple Watch Series 5 is currently our favorite smartwatch for its always-on display and incredible fitness tracking. After trying it, we loved that you can choose which notifications you want to receive, which should make cutting down your screen time even easier.
5. An intricate puzzle to occupy your time
It seems like everyone is doing puzzles nowadays. Not only are they challenging, but they give you a chance to use your brain instead of swiping on your phone. Instead of taking a five-minute social media break, take a five-minute puzzle break—hopefully, you can get one or two pieces in that time. Puzzles can be harder to come by, but you can still find some intricate options online.
- Get the MLB Los Angeles Dodgers 500pc Find Joe Journeyman Puzzle at Target for $19.99
- Get the MasterPieces Dean Russo So Puuurty 1000 Piece Puzzle at Walmart for $34.99
- Get the Space Puzzle 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle at Amazon for $29.69
6. A fidget spinner to play with instead of our phones
Part of the reason we’re on our phones so much is out of habit. It’s easy to reach for your device and start scrolling—even when you have more pressing things to do. A fidget spinner is an easy way to keep your hands busy, and PopSocket makes a PopGrip that doubles as a fidget spinner, so you can fidget away the next time you reach for your phone. When we tried it for ourselves we found that it was fun to use, though it made a noticeable whizzing sound that can be distracting to some.
7. An adult coloring book
Coloring isn’t just for kids. It’s a relaxing activity that might make you feel better than watching people bake bread on Instagram. This adult coloring book is a best-seller and is full of enchanting designs of mandalas, animals, flowers, and more. These images will look good—even if you decide to color outside the lines.
8. A planner to jot down your notes and goals
I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly filling my notes with random thoughts, ideas, and to-do lists—which typically has me lingering on an app or two right after. Instead, a physical planner could help you stay organized and actually remember that you wrote something down. The undated Panda Planner is a popular option that has daily, weekly, and monthly sections designed to help prioritization and reflection. You’ll also get access to courses on improving productivity and cutting down on procrastination with your purchase.
9. A smart speaker to answer all your questions
Most of the time, I’m opening my devices to look up the most random things: the weather, if dogs intentionally wag their tails, how to complete a quest in Animal Crossing, and the like. Oftentimes that leads me down a deep hole of searching. But a smart speaker can quickly answer all your burning questions sans phone, which can help stop the rabbit hole in its tracks. After trying a variety of smart speakers, we found that the Google Assistant is the best one to use conversationally.
10. An app that limits your phone use
If you're really struggling with not using your phone, there’s an app for that. For example, Moment tracks how much you use your phone or tablet each day and lets you set daily limits on certain apps. There’s also a “Moment Family” option, which allows you to track your family's usage—and even set limits during dinner or homework time.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.