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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 25 May, 2019
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Here's what happened when I tried to curb my 7 hour-a-day phone habit

Average results, to say the least.

THE SCREEN TIME update for iOS is easily the best and worst thing that’s every happened to me.

The Screen Time and App Limits features were rolled out in September. I remember hearing about them and thinking “huh, that sounds interesting”, as I continued to dismiss my own phone’s impending system updates. Eventually, the phone took matters into its own hands and updated itself. 

And that’s when I got the fright of my life.

Listen, I wasn’t going into this entirely disillusioned. I knew that I was spending too much time on my phone. I knew my phone usage was impacted by my job, to a degree at least.

However, I wasn’t expecting an average of SEVEN HOURS A DAY to be glaring back at me when I opened up the menu.

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Now, that’s obviously an average – I wasn’t spending 7 hours every day on my phone. But it was damn close. Unnervingly close.

Let’s consider the steps I’d already taken before undertaking this “experiment”.

  • My notifications are always turned off, bar for my text messages, which I rarely get now anyway.
  • The social networking apps I have are Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. I deleted Facebook because it was taking up too much space, and Twitter because I was using it too much. I still use them in Safari, occasionally.
  • I have my ‘status’ turned off on Whatsapp and Instagram, to stop myself from constantly checking when people were last active.
  • I try and read on my commute in (roughly 40 minutes) to avoid using my phone.

How was I still managing to spend so much time on it?

I decided to trial myself for a couple of days, and see if I could reduce my daily average. To do that, I needed to partake in a few extra steps.

  • I started plugging in my phone to charge across the room over night, as opposed to next to my bed. I have an alarm clock, so I don’t need it for that purpose anymore.
  • I set time limits on all my apps bar WhatsApp and Spotify. From 5pm – 5am, I wouldn’t be able to use those particular apps – unless of course, I decided to simply dismiss the reminder. (You have the option of disabling the limit for 15 minutes or for the rest of the day.) The app I use most is Instagram – my daily average for that being 2 hours 23 minutes alone.

So, here’s how I got on!

Sunday

Sunday was the day I decided to properly trial the limits. I figured it would be fairly handy as I was out with my boyfriend eating pretty much all day, and we try not to use our phones when do that. We were also going to a movie, which meant I wouldn’t be on my phone for at least two hours.

When I came out of the movie, my app limits had been enabled. Initially, I didn’t dismiss anything, but by the time I got home, I did find myself dismissing the reminder for 15 minutes at a time. (I also forgot to plug my phone in across the room for this night – oops!)

Total: 3 hours 16 minutes

Pick-ups: 87

Monday

Some challenges arose here – I was working 11am-7pm for the week, meaning the time limits on my apps were pretty strict, especially for work. I was also reviewing Florence + The Machine in the evening and I usually use my phone to take notes and update the work social media account from the gig. Stupidly, I also just wasn’t bothered taking my book out of my bag to read it for the commute in. I knew ultimately, having checked in during the middle of the day, that I was going to be close to my weekly average that I was trying to beat, if not higher.

However, in the end, I kept pretty close to my reduced target of 5 hours (I know that’s still not great, but let’s start modestly, guys.) I think plugging the phone across the room definitely helped, as I stand to waste a lot of time in bed scrolling, be it once I’ve woken up or whether I’m about to go to sleep.

Total: 5 hours 2 minutes

Pickups: 176

Tuesday

In my head, Tuesday should have been easier as I had no commitments in the evening. However, I managed to spend close to hour scrolling on Instagram before I got up for work. What’s worse is that I was so conscious of what I was doing, and still doing it. Stupid!

Once again, I forgot to read on the bus, which added to my final total. I had to do some social media bits for a press event I was attending in the afternoon: nothing major, just some quick posting and videoing. All on Insta though – not great.

Same for the way home. I did nothing in the evening bar watch I’m A Celeb and The Haunting of Hill House, which I obviously needed to update my respective WhatsApp groups on. Oh, and my Insta followers, naturally.

Total: 7 hours 38 minutes

Pickups: 184

Wednesday

I was once again reviewing a gig in the evening (Honne at The Academy, FYI), so I knew I’d be using my phone in the evening. Once again, I forgot to read on the way in. I’m usually fairly strict about reading on the bus – I’d like to blame the book (Rafael Nadal’s autobiography is proving a slog), but I should have put in more of an effort.)

I felt really tired in the evening, and got really sluggish in work. I would usually go the gym on lunch, but my membership’s expired, and I can’t renew for a while because of funds. As a result, I was eating badly and crashed badly towards the end of the day. I was so distracted and constantly checking my phone at my desk. Not good.

Total: 5 hours 54 minutes

Pickups: 171

Thursday

Hooray! I actually did read on my commute! Although, in the interests of honesty, it’s worth admitting that I definitely checked my apps in between chapters. I’d imagine my guilty conscience forced me too, as I had once again spent an hour scrolling in the morning in bed (yes, I did get up out of bed to pick up my phone, before proceeding to go back to bed. Kill me.)

I went for a run on my lunch to avoid a slump, and used my Fitbit instead of my usual running app. I don’t tend to faff with Spotify when I run – just stick on something and go. As I was reviewing another gig that evening, (I chose a terrible week to undergo this phone diary), there was some more time spent in the Notes app and on Instagram.

Total: 6 hours 32 minutes

Pickups: 169

Total average over 5 days: 5 hours 39 minutes per day
Total average pickups over 5 days: 145 per day

In conclusion …

Now, before anyone eats me in the comments: I know I have a lot of work to do. I know the older generation are going to bemoan mine for suffering from phone addiction, plain and simple. I want to do something about it, but going cold turkey isn’t feasible with my job. 

Obviously, this is only five of a seven day week. I could completely blow it at the weekend and have to have the phone removed forcibly from my hand with a crowbar. However, I do think that sleeping away from my phone helped, particularly going to sleep. Admittedly, I still have work to do when it comes to morning scrolls.

I need to be a bit stricter with my commute times. I don’t want to give myself any kind of arduous task to be doing on a commute – I’m entitled to do shag all before heading in to do eight hours – but scrolling is such a waste of 40 minutes.

This was an unusual, badly organised week for me. I try and not give myself to do much to do, but I blatantly didn’t follow that rule here signing up for gigs left, right and centre. If I can manage that a bit better going forward, it should be easy to reduce the number.

I’m going to keep at it with my reduction steps outlined above: I might adjust the ‘down time’ limits on my apps depending on what shift I’m working. Otherwise, I think they’re pretty effective – even if I dismiss the limit, it only gives me 15 minutes to scroll.

If you’re struggling with putting down the fón póca, at least try and up your productivity and reduce your social networking use. 

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