How to Limit Your Phone Time and Get On With Your Life


How many times a day do you check your phone? Could it be 10, 20 – or maybe even more? According to the U.S. edition of the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey from Deloitte, American consumers check their smartphones an average of 52 times each day. If you’re a millennial, that number jumps to 150. Shocking? It depends. For some people, this is normal behavior, but for others, not so much.

Think about it. The amount of time you spend on your smartphone could be having a negative effect on your relationships. We’ve all seen it play out in various ways. Maybe you’re on a date with your spouse, but he’s looking at his phone while you’re waiting for the food to arrive. Or perhaps you’ve taken the kids to the playground only to stare at your phone while they struggle to capture your attention? Your intentions are good. You just wanted to check for an important update, but then you got sucked in to the latest news event or a video on social media. Minutes passed, and you lost precious time with your loved ones.

If you hate being tethered to your smartphone – and you’d like to either break from the phone or manage it better – the following suggestions might help:

Think about what you could be doing instead. Like many people, realizing how much time you spend on your phone could be a wake-up call. After all, life is short, and this is time that could be devoted to doing things you love with the people you love. If you’ve been thinking about starting a new hobby, learning a new skill or having dinner with a friend, but you just can’t seem to make it happen, taking a break from your phone may afford you the time you need. On a larger scale, maybe you’ve always wanted to start your own business, finish college or write a book. You’ll never tackle the big goals in life if you don’t learn to manage your time – and that includes the minutes and hours you spend on your smartphone.

Establish some rules. Start by designating some no-phone zones in your life, such as the bedroom, the dinner table or when you’re dining out. These should be places where you don’t want to be distracted, both in your personal and your professional life. Attending an important meeting at work? Demonstrate that you’re committed to the gathering by leaving your smartphone back at your desk. Standing on the sidelines of your child’s soccer game? While you’re catching up on social media, you son could be scoring the winning goal. Put down your phone and focus on what’s happening around you instead.

Wean yourself slowly. Studies show that many smartphone users may actually be addicted to their devices. Smartphones and apps are designed to trigger the release of dopamine, a chemical in your brain that helps form habits. Unfortunately, some of these habits turn to addictions, such as when you have the constant urge to check your phone. If that sounds familiar, it may be helpful to start with some short separation times. For instance, if you’re running to the store to pick up a few items, leave your phone at home. Taking the dog for a walk? You probably won’t need your phone for that. You can gradually increase the length of time and frequency until you feel more comfortable being without your phone. Eventually the out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality will kick in, and you will re-gain control.

Delete your social media apps and turn off your notifications. If you’re tempted to check your favorite social media apps on a regular basis, you may want to remove the apps from your phone. If that’s a bit too draconian, park them in a folder off your home screen. While you’re at it, turn off those email and text notifications. Have you noticed your body’s stressful reaction to these little disrupters?

Use technology to overcome technology. When all else fails – or maybe sooner – you may want to install an app that blocks access to the apps and websites that monopolize your time. If you simply want to measure your screen time, a time-tracking app may be all you need.

David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.