As someone in their mid-30s, I lived in a world before mobile phones dominated the mainstream consumer. I remember what it was like to be bored. I remember having faith in friends to remember plans. And I remember a world before Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I also experienced smart phones changing that world forever. I remember the feeling of suddenly having what was essentially a supercomputer in my pocket.
Over time, I slowly began to forget the feeling of boredom as it was replaced with my choice of entertainment apps. I no longer required the same faith in friends to remember plans, because I could simply drop them a text or request their location via WhatsApp. Stuck for an answer to a question or a problem? No problem, I could Google it. My phone was this amazing device that provided entertainment, knowledge, communication, and more.
As someone in their mid-30s, I now reassess areas of my life a little more often than my younger self did. Do I want to learn new hobbies? How do I want to best spend my time? Do I still enjoy my current hobbies? These are questions I ask myself a little more frequently, and recently, my answers have begun to change.
Since the introduction of the Screen Time feature on my phone, I’ve been questioning the true value of using my device. I thought to myself, “If each minute spent using my phone equates to $1, am I getting value for my money (my time)? Am I getting any return on the money I spend? Do I have anything to show for my expenditure or am I simply wasting my money?”
In short, my answer was “No." It therefore made sense for me to reassess exactly what I wanted from my phone and how I could reduce my daily screen time to ensure my interaction was more valuable.
I decided on two ways to reduce my screen time:
1. Reduce my total number of apps
My first step was to order my existing apps into three categories:
- Apps I used daily
- Apps I used weekly
- Apps I rarely used
I rearranged the apps I used daily to be displayed on my home screen. I then questioned their value and my reason for using them. Did I use them as a pacifier to replace boredom? Did I use them out of necessity? Did I use them as learning material? I deleted all that were used as a pacifier. This included Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This was difficult but I knew I only wanted to use apps that would help me learn or grow as a person.
I asked the same question for apps I used weekly. Once I had deleted those apps that were not proving value, I re-organized those that remained into a single folder named “Apps.” I ordered these apps based on usage. For instance, apps used for work were prioritized ahead of all others. I deleted all other apps that my phone allowed me to.
2. Replace existing apps with those that offer greater value
Once I had minimized my total number of apps, my next step was to specifically and intentionally re-arrange those that remain on my home screen. I replaced apps I used to interact with daily with those I wanted to interact with on a more regular basis and those that would provide greater value. For instance, one of my intentions is to learn French so I placed the Duolingo app where the Facebook app used to reside. Now, instead of opening Facebook in a state of boredom, I open Duolingo and develop my language skills.
My phone is more valuable than it has ever been, and, in a way, it has begun to justify its hefty price tag. My phone is no longer used as a pacifier or as an entertainment piece; instead, it’s something that helps me grow and develop as a person. Although the time spent on my phone has decreased, the value of my time has increased remarkably. I spend time on fewer and more valuable apps, and I feel a greater sense of achievement as a result.
Almost all of my screen time is now spent using my phone for the right reasons—the reasons that help me develop and advance as an individual.