Screen time is a fact of life these days, despite research stating that it isn’t great for us. If you can’t reduce it, at least make it work for you. Here are some ways to change up what you do with your laptops and smartphones that can help your cognition, mood, and overall productivity.
Use productivity apps
You might need to look at the screen, but are you optimizing your time? Probably not. Using productivity apps like Pomodoro, TimeOut, or Focus Booster help you stay focused on what you need to do and remind you to take regular breaks, which helps you maintain focus in the long run. If you think you can improve your work time, but you’re not sure what’s going wrong, try using Time Sink, which will log the time you spend in each open window or application. That can be a real eye-opener.
Learn about the world
Part of improving your screen time is about making sure it counts. Surfing social media isn’t productive, but checking out this list of curated documentaries about science and tech is. You’ll learn about the world, pick up some new info to share around the dinner table, and prevent the inevitable frustration that comes with scrolling through the echo chamber.
Train your brain
Staring at the screen might require a lot of brain power, but when you’re just doing the same things day in and day out, your cognitive skills aren’t being challenged. Apps like Lumosity, CogniFit Brain Fitness, and Happify can help you develop anything from a better memory to a happier outlook. That’s a big improvement over Candy Crush or Pokemon Go.
Use apps to calm your mind
When you must pick up the smartphone, start using it to ground yourself instead of obsessively checking notifications. There are plenty of meditation and mindfulness apps out there with a wide variety of practices, so you can definitely find one that works for you.
While there are lots of ways to improve your screen time, it’s also important to set boundaries for it. There are different ways to do this, depending on how hard it is for you to stay away from the smartphone or computer.
In the morning, delay looking at your phone by leaving it outside the bedroom overnight. Try waiting until you’ve had breakfast to pick it up. Make a rule that devices don’t come out during meals. If you’re one of those people who picks up her phone all day long and you have an iPhone, you can take advantage of the new Screen Time app to implement app time limits per day.
Take a Coursera class
There’s a lot of learning to be had on the internet if you know where to find it (hint: it’s not on Facebook). On Coursera, you can take free massive open online courses (MOOCs) from any number of well-regarded colleges and universities in subjects ranging from computer science to business to photography.
Listen to a podcast
Instead of staring at your device, find an interesting podcast and play it while you stare out your window or even rest your eyes (they probably need it if you’re looking at a computer all day).
Take a screen vacation
While there are plenty of things you can do to improve the quality and overall value of your screen time, there’s no denying that occasional breaks are also important. Find times to put the phone and laptop away for a day or three, especially when you’re on vacation or spending time with family and friends. The natural world is full of wonders of a different kind than what tech can offer.
Given that screens are ubiquitous and aren’t going anywhere, the least you can do for yourself is to make sure you’re using them for things that matter.
Author: Hilary Thompson