How does using goals work as a tool to reduce over-reliance on smart phones? Pretty darn well based on my experiment. Here’s what happened:
As I had noted in the first part of this series, Apple’s iOS update at the beginning of the month began to reveal just how much time we all spend on our phones. After a week of using my phone as usual with this feature, the picture was not pretty:
- Daily screen time: 3 hours and 6 minutes (this is actually very close to the national average)
- Daily # of Pickups: 98 (~1 every 9 minutes)
- Daily Twitter Time: 1 hour and 6 minutes
I set out to reduce those with four goals running through the end of October. Now that we’re there, what’s the result? Here’s what those same #’s looked like once the goals were put in place:
- Daily screen time: 1 hour and 41 minutes (down 46% or 1 hour and 25 mins less per day!)
- Daily # of Pickups: 67.7 (down 31% to ~1 every 14 minutes)
- Daily Twitter Time: 8 mins per day(down 88% and almost an hour per day!)
I did this by being achieving each of the four goals that I set. Here’s each of those now that they’ve completed!
I was pretty happy overall with how each goal set the incentives for me. Twitter limits helped me be mindful of scrolling through there without a point, and total time limits helped me stay focused on actually doing things on my phone, rather than mindlessly wandering around looking for apps to entertain me.
Lastly, the pickup count goal helped me resist that initial temptation to pull up the phone. That was the toughest to meet, as it is such a quick reflex to grab the phone and swipe it open. Although it was the closest goal, having a 31% reduction was pretty good. Grabbing the phone once every 14 minutes still seems like a lot, but it’s something to build on.
Overall, the numbers suggest that I got 32 hours back over the 3.5 weeks using this goal. That seems substantial, but I can’t say that my life feels that much different as a result.
What does it feel like? I do feel like I’ve been a bit more productive, but it isn’t a dramatic shift. I feel a bit more inoculated to the outrage mobs of Twitter and the general mess of our current political environment. And I have certainly been a bit more aware of my surroundings and “present” to borrow a term from meditation terminology.
That all being said, I absolutely don’t feel any worse or feel like I’m missing out on anything. The hours cut out largely didn’t add anything to my life, and I still feel connected to everything that’s going on.
Based on what I’ve learned, I’ve setup some long-term goals to help me continue to be aware and wary of screen time. Here they are:
One thing I did was to translate each goal into a weekly target. This allows more flexibility — I don’t have to worry about going over, say 15 mins of Twitter each day, but can adjust and compensate based on the needs of a day.
Each target is also a slight decline from where I am today. I do still feel like I can improve my life with further reductions in phone use, and so it’ll be a fun challenge to cut Twitter time slightly, reduce pickups by another 30%, and reduce total screen time by another ~15%.
Once I reach these targets, I’ll be saving myself almost 50 hours per month over the baseline that likely represents my past few years. Who knows what else all that time will bring with it, but I’m very glad to have it back!