Unplugged: 5 Ways to Avoid Looking At Your Phone Every 5 Minutes

Elliott Redwine

Millions of people received a rude awakening when Apple released its Screen Time iPhone app last fall. It’s no secret that most of us use our phones often, probably more often than we should. But Apple’s new feature put the cold, hard hours and minutes right in front of our faces. There’s no arguing with each meticulously-tracked pickup, incoming notification, and app open.

It seems like we can’t make it through a meal with friends, a night out on the town, or even the checkout stand at the grocery store without stopping to check our phone. You might find your hand itching to click the unlock button to check one more time, minutes after you last checked. Some even experience phantom vibrations, thinking their phone is ringing when it isn’t

Society today is intrinsically intertwined with technology. There’s no escaping it. We’re moving forward into a world where almost every single person you know is only a swipe or a tap away. We’re expected to respond almost instantaneously to every message, email, and notification we receive.

No wonder we’re checking our phones so often.

Are you having a hard time with how often you pick up your phone? Does it cut into your day, distracting more than helping you? How can you keep of your phone to be more present with family? You can use the Screen Time iPhone app along with a few other tips to keep an eye on your use. Continue reading to learn more about how to escape the pickup trap.

Getting Unplugged Using Screen Time iPhone App Statistics

Apps that calculate screen time and give you detailed reports about how you use your phone have been around for a while. These third-party platforms tracked which apps you used, how long you used them for, how many times you picked up your phone, and more. Then the Screen Time iPhone app gave all users this ability by default.

If you noticed your screen time seems much too high you aren’t alone. Rescue Time, another brand of app-tracking software, recently released an extensive report on their findings from users’ screen time. They confirmed what we already know: the majority of people spend an alarming amount of time on their phones every single day.

The average user spends 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phone each day. In case that isn’t enough, the top 20 percent of screen junkies are on their phone for more than 4.5 hours each day. This means some people spend almost 1 out of every 4 waking hours on their phone, assuming they sleep 8 hours each night.

Even more shocking? How often people pick up their phone. We’re the opposite of unplugged. Rescue Time’s report revealed users picked up their phones an average of 58 times per day. Not only that, but 30 of their 58 phone pickups took place during regular working hours. Their phones served as a distraction during a large part of the time they were supposed to be working.

5 Tips to Get Unplugged

Phone use isn’t always a bad thing. Our cell phones offer us a wealth of information at the tips of our thumbs. We can learn new languages, discover new recipes, and meet people on the other side of the world. They give us the ability to capture thousands of memories wherever we go then store them with a simple sync.

They become a problem when they start eating up precious minutes and hours of your day. Do you spend time on your phone instead of playing with your kids? Are you more involved in thumbing through apps than eating dinner with your family? Does your phone keep you distracted from your list of tasks at work?

Or do you notice that you can’t seem to stop checking your phone even when you last reached for it only a few minutes ago? There are many negative impacts of technology. It becomes a compulsion for many of us and we don’t even think before we pull it out from our pocket and unlock the screen to look one more time. The following tips will help you get unplugged and back to living more in the real world.

1. Use apps to track the way you use your phone.

The first step to solving a problem is realizing that the problem exists. If you’re reading this article, you’re already worried about how much time you spend on your phone. Now you need to get an idea about how much of a problem you have before you can work to correct it. Making use of the Screen Time iPhone app can help you take the first steps to get unplugged.

Take a look at the app if you haven’t already. It should already work in the background, tracking your phone use by default. If it hasn’t been running, though, set it up and use your phone as you would normally would for a week. Pick it up, check your notifications, and scroll through apps like usual. After that week of use, check your data to see what your totals are.

This data gives you an outline of your regular patterns of use. Now use this information to set goals to reduce screen time and base your adjustments off of. Consider the specific things you’d like to see for yourself. Do you want to:

  • Limit the time you spend on specific apps?
  • Cut down on the number of times you check your phone?
  • Reduce your overall screen time and spend more of life unplugged?

Write down your goals and work to make progress towards them each week. If you use an Apple product, your Screen Time iPhone app gives you a weekly report and compares how you did to the previous week. Android offers a few similar features that you can make use of. In addition to default apps, there are dozens of fantastic third-party apps you can also use.

2. Pay attention to the times you go to pick up your phone.

Your baseline use stats should include the average number of times you pick up your phone throughout the day. How often do you check for notifications each hour? Are there certain times you’re more likely to pick up your phone? Are these useful times or are they times you should be spending unplugged?

Make use of the Screen Time iPhone app or other third-party apps to get detailed information on when you look at your phone the most. Maybe it’s during bathroom breaks at work to kill time or while waiting for meetings to start up. You can take a more assertive approach to push back against the urge to check if you know when it’s likely to come up.

3. Turn off all unnecessary notifications, utilize Do Not Disturb, and switch to “home screen zero.”

Developers designed push notifications to keep us anything but unplugged and engaged with apps as often as possible. It’s difficult to get anything done when the non-stop buzzing keeps you wanting to check your phone regularly. Use your Screen Time iPhone app to find the biggest culprits. Then you can turn off any unnecessary notifications to limit the interruptions.

Turning on the “Do Not Disturb” feature is also helpful. This shuts off all notifications to keep your phone from interrupting you, but everything is ready and waiting when you unlock your screen. Do Not Disturb might be a helpful tool to use during meetings or while spending time with family.

“Home Screen Zero” refers to removing any unnecessary items from your home screen. Delete apps that you sink too much time into or hide them in a folder on the second screen. Take off anything you don’t need immediate access to keep you from unlocking your screen to check in as often. Maybe even set an encouraging reminder as your phone’s background picture.

4. Put off picking up your phone for as long as possible.

When you look at your phone and respond to a message it only makes sense that you’ll check for the person’s response a few minutes later. The data collected in the Rescue Time study proved this. They saw that picking up your phone even a single time sets off a “chain reaction” of additional pickups. Half of the pickups recorded took place within 3 minutes of the last one.

The longer you put off picking up your phone, the longer you postpone the pickup chain reaction. Try to avoid mindlessly checking your phone to save precious time spent better in other ways. Stay unplugged for as long as possible and you’ll find it becomes easier to do as time passes and you get used to it.

Again, using the Screen Time iPhone app keeps you up-to-date on whether you’re inching closer to or further from your goals. Set a regular time throughout the week to check in on your progress. What adjustments do you need to make? Are you picking up your phone too often and setting off that chain reaction?

5. Pick up a new hobby or start going back to an old one.

Smartphone addiction seems to show few signs of slowing down. As apps and advertisers work together to keep us from locking the screen, the harder it is to get unplugged. Many addiction specialists suggest recovering substance abusers find new ways to spend their time. This gives them something to do when their cravings arise.

You should also find a new hobby or rediscover an old one to step away from your smartphone. Think of something you can see yourself getting lost in that would make it easier to forget about checking your phone.

Do you enjoy reading books or articles? What about writing stories or poetry? Some people enjoy knitting or other crafty hobbies that keep their itchy smartphone hands occupied. Exercise is another fantastic option since it releases natural waves of feel-good chemicals you usually get from checking your phone. Try walking or running, lifting weights, hiking, or playing a sport.

You might have some friends interested in taking up your new limited-screen time lifestyle. Get a few friends together and ditch your phones at home. You might realize how much you rely on phones to make it through any “awkward” moments with other people. Maybe they aren’t as awkward as we think they are and instead we need to re-learn how to be present.

Remember your phone isn’t necessarily an enemy.

On their own, our phones are powerful tools that give us access to plenty of information we had to work to find before. This dopamine hit straight to our instant gratification centers is both helpful and harmful in different ways. But your phone isn’t necessarily an enemy as long as you make it work for you.

Remember it’s an app maker’s job to keep you as engaged as possible. Their app does better when you spend more time on it. Instead, be a mindful consumer and make their apps work for you and if it doesn’t work for you, ditch it.

Getting unplugged isn’t impossible but it does take some work. With the help of your Screen Time iPhone app and better awareness, you can keep your phone in your pocket (or at home!) and re-engage in the real world once more.

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