Do you fall asleep while watching TV? Do you grab your phone the moment you wake up? If so, it’s time to take control of your tech use.
These days, technology is everywhere. And while these devices can be helpful, they can also be terribly addictive.
Breaking your tech habit, like any addiction, is all about being intentional. When you’re mindful of when and how you use your devices, you can stop them from stealing your time. Here’s how experts suggest building better habits around technology:
1. Create a Tech Schedule
While you know that you use technology, of course, you probably don’t realize to what extent. That’s why you should set healthy limits.
Instead of letting yourself use technology whenever you want, create a schedule. Allow yourself a certain amount of tech time throughout the day, depending on what devices you use the most. You might limit yourself 20 minutes of phone time in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon, and 20 minutes in the evening, for example.
Do this for your children as well. Help them establish healthy habits by restricting your kids’ phone use to after-school hours. Make sure they put it away before bed.
If their school forbids phone use, make sure they have it stowed during class hours. If you have doubts about their overall use of a device, consider buying a phone for kids. This will not only help you monitor their tech use, but it will offer peace of mind that you know what your kid is looking at.
If you struggle to stick to your schedule, set a timer. You can also try a timed lockbox if self-control isn’t your strong suit.
2. Keep Tech Out of the Bedroom
Electronics like phones, iPads, and TVs stimulate your senses, which makes it difficult to relax. In fact, studies have found a link between night time phone use and insomnia.
Screens emit blue light, which can suppress melatonin (the “sleep hormone”). Delaying melatonin’s release by spending time on your devices makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even if you’re able to fall asleep after spending hours on your phone, notification sounds may wake you in the middle of the night.
Avoid the temptation and leave your phone out of the bedroom. Not only will you help kick the insomnia, you may help curb your social media scrolling too.
3. Find Healthier Ways to Relax
Technology has changed the way we do everything — including the way we relax. Instead of reading a book on the couch, many of us spend our free time scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. In fact, almost a third of us say we’re online “almost constantly.”
How many times have you checked Twitter while eating dinner with your friends? When you’re bored, do you instinctively reach for your phone? Chances are, you don’t even realize how much you rely on your digital devices to unwind.
It’s important to box out time for tech-free relaxation. Check out books from the library, put together a puzzle, or take up a new hobby. Whatever it is, just make sure it doesn’t involve a screen.
4. Take a Step Back From Social Media
Social media is a wonderful way to connect from afar with friends and family members. During the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, many turned to social media to stay in touch. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst causes of tech overuse.
Research has shown that social media can have a negative impact on a person’s well-being. A study found that people who spend less time on social media are less depressed and lonely. Other studies have associated excessive social media use by young people with anxiety and depression.
That’s not to say social media is behind every bad day you have. But if you’re struggling, it’s a good idea to take a step back from social media. Limit yourself to an hour per day across all the platforms you use.
Pay particular attention to your mobile social media use. If you need to, install a site-blocking application. Consider removing social media apps from your phone altogether.
5. Turn Off Notifications
Whether you do a full social media detox or not, check your notification settings. Although notifications can be helpful, they can also be awfully distracting. Do you really need to be notified each and every time you’re tagged in a Facebook photo?
Think beyond social media. What about all those spam emails you’re pinged about throughout the day? Have you ever received a text message so important you needed to respond within seconds?
Unless you’re expecting an emergency call, feel free to turn off your notifications altogether. An easy way to do this is to set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode.
6. Reward Yourself for Taking Control
Rewards reinforce behavior. Use them to encourage yourself to stick to healthier tech habits.
Try to tie the reward to the circumstances. When you go a week without using your phone in bed, reward yourself with a fresh set of sheets. Give the whole family a treat if you all manage to go that long without bringing tech to the dinner table.
Should you punish yourself for slipping up? Beating up on yourself isn’t a smart strategy. You’re going to make mistakes. If you’re too hard on yourself, you’ll cause yourself to give up.
7. Get an Accountability Partner
It’s a lot easier to fall off the wagon when you’re the only one on it. If you’re struggling to take control of your tech use, enlist a friend. Ideally, this person should be taking similar steps to improve their technology habits.
Use a shared system, such as a calendar, to note “good” and “bad” days. Don’t expect perfection, but do look for improvement over time.
Again, don’t punish yourself: If neither of you manage to keep your phone away during a workday, discuss it afterward. Don’t berate yourself, much less each other. Come up with a plan for how you’ll keep your phone in your pocket tomorrow.
These days, it can be hard to be the boss of your technology. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s impossible. Take the power back by being mindful of how and when you use your devices.