One of my personal goals for 2019 is to spend less time in front of a screen. This includes phones, laptops, and televisions. Reading books on my Kindle is still allowed.
I certainly spend way less time on a device now than I did while working, but I find that I have lost time doing mindless things that could be better spent playing guitar, exercising, cooking, reading, or spending quality time with the fam.
I view this solely as a matter of preference, choosing what to do with my waking hours. So far so good.
I probably first started thinking about reducing screen time a few months after Jr was born – walking around as a sleep deprived zombie made it easy to get sucked into the black hole of the Internet or watching late-night television.
I remember seeing this Time magazine cover and it hiting a bit too close to home.
Better late than never, these are the changes I’ve made over the past 6 months.
I read that on average kids 2-5 spend 32 hours/week in front of a TV, which is more than 10x what we watch max. It’s not a big part of our lives, so I haven’t felt any urge to reduce it.
In our original home we never had a television. We would sometimes watch a move on the laptop for date night, but it was rare. We didn’t have Netflix or cable, instead preferring to be out and about.
We now have 2 televisions as part of our furnished apartment. One of them has never been turned on, and the other is used for occasional family movie night or cartoons.
Back in the day while working, Winnie and I shared a single phone. Perhaps this was excessively frugal. Over the past several years we both started using one more and more, just because it was there.
I don’t think it would be practical to not have a phone at all… I use it regularly for maps, bus schedules, Kindle, Uber, camera, Strava, and Apple Pay. I can’t recall the last time I actually called someone, but I do use it for messaging with friends and family.
So rather than get rid of an useful tool, I’ve turned my phone into a fixed function device.
Enabled parental controls – can’t install apps or view certain websites. If it is important, I’ll get on my laptop later at home.
Removed all email. I can only do email on my laptop, and I’ve gone up to 7 days without checking it. It hasn’t really impacted anything.
Deleted all social apps – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… no mindless scrolling (I still occasionally check in with family on Facebook on my laptop.)
Deleted all blogging apps – I can’t just randomly check blog stats… random information is mental static.
Deleted all games – spend that 5 minutes waiting for the bus reading instead.
Installed SelfControl app – can’t view blacklist websites when active, e.g. twitter.com, gocurrycracker.com, youtube, etc…
Write action plan with pen and paper, including time frame, before turning on laptop – helps to be intentional and focused
Modified habits – I used to more or less randomly do some things on the laptop before I started “working”, such as check email, peruse facebook, see how the stock market was doing… an action plan helped reduce/eliminate this
Unsubscribe and spam – I’ve eliminated a lot of email from unimportant sources. For sites that make unsubscribing difficult, I’ve just added them to the spam filter.
Turned off password autofills and use a password app – I literally don’t know any of my passwords, so I can’t accidentally login to Instagram
I’ve noticed quite a few tangible benefits to reduced screen time.
Time – I’ve gained at least an hour per day, often more. Plus a slew of 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there.
More reading – I made a random goal of reading 26 books in 2019. I’ve already read 8.
Healthier – I would on occasion miss workouts because I would get sucked into doing something unimportant on my laptop. That seldom happens anymore.
More efficient – Random scrolling through websites and email is minimal
Relationships – I’ve been more present with friends and family
Better sleep – if I stay up later than I intended, it is because I was reading some quality fiction
Financial – I have no desire to buy a new and improved laptop or phone. I’ll probably be content with existing devices for a year longer than I would have otherwise
Goals – Exercise, guitar, and reading goals have all become more front and center
I’m really happy spending less time in front of a screen. Taking steps to reduce or eliminate opportunities for mindless Internet browsing or viewing unnecessary information has done wonders for life.
I’m also super happy with active screen time – when I sit down with the intention of doing things and using the screen as a tool, creating, learning, doing.
So far this experiment has been a great success.