Considering making a resolution for 2020? How about setting an intention to spend more time phone and screen free? Research has shown that people who spend less time on their phones are likely to be fitter, healthier and enjoy better concentration and relationships. Surely one of those alone would be a worthy trade-off for a digital detox!

One thing to remember when setting a goal, whether at the start of a new year or at any other time, is to be realistic. Ask yourself–what can I confidently sign up for and (crucially) stick to? The length of time required to change a habit is estimated at somewhere between 21 and 66 days. So be patient with yourself!

Here are some tips on how to cut back on screen time:

1. Keep a track of your usage

Most new devices have usage monitors built-in, but if not you can easily download one on the app store. It’s also worth keeping a mood journal so you can start to note your triggers (what leads you to spending time on your phone). For some it could be anxiety, others boredom. Knowing what you’re trying to suppress or distract yourself from by being on your device can be a valuable piece of information. You can then start to explore other ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions.

2. Do some “wait” training

I read many articles advocating going cold turkey (e.g., just switching off your phone for the weekend). Our Western minds are used to stimulation, and if we set overly ambitious goals that we fail to meet, we can feel defeated and are very unlikely to climb back on the wagon. So instead, start by fencing off some time when you feel you can reasonably go without your phone. It might still be difficult for you, but choose a period of time that you think is achievable. Start small and increase the wait time before you check your phone. For me, it started with leaving my phone at home when I took my dog for a walk. It was only 45 minutes but it was a start and my enjoyment of that uninterrupted period of time gave me a taste for more!

3. Spring clean your phone

Consider it as you would a packed closet—if it’s overloaded with stuff, with many things hanging from the same hanger, it’s impossible to see what you have, what you like, and what no longer serves you. I operate a “one in, one out” policy when I buy clothes, and I’ve found this policy also works well for apps. For most of us, our phone reflects ourselves; it’s our mental real estate, so keep it tidy!

4. Harness your addiction

Write yourself a message that will appear on your phone’s lock-screen, so that each time you absent-mindedly pick up your device, it will tell you “Go for a walk” or “Read that book you never have time for.” That way you harness your addiction and turn it into a tool that actually works for you.

5. Mute notifications and alerts

The pings and bleeps of your phone’s alerts and notifications are for a smartphone addict what tempting sugary or salty snacks are for an overeater. Eliminate the temptation.

 

– Hilda Burke, author of The Phone Addiction Workbook

 

To find out just how attached you are to your phone (and figure out where you’re starting from for a digital detox), take the Smartphone Compulsion Test.

Are you a parent, trying to get your kids to spend less time in front of screens? Check out Screen-Free Crafts Kids Will Love for tons of activities that don’t require any screens!