Time is our most valuable, finite resource. We can’t control whether or not we use it; the only thing we can control is how we use it.
In 2019, Rescue Time published a blog post with stats gathered from the data of 11,000 of their app users. The time an average person spent on a smartphone? 3 hours and 15 minutes per day. This is an increase by about 20 minutes compared to the previous year, with evidence that the time will continue to increase every year.
The average person is spending nearly an entire 24 hour day every single week looking down at their phone.
We do have a lot of resources available to help us cut back on screen time so we can focus on things that are important to us. Let’s take a look at 7 free apps designed to help you reduce your screen time.
+Apple and Android
Gamification is a technique that UX designers use to drive user engagement with game and social media apps. In-app lights, colors, and sounds can all contribute to the feeling of being addicted to your phone. (You can read more about the psychology behind gamification techniques here.) The good news is, gamification can be used to motivate you in other ways besides staring at your phone.
Forest is a great example of gamification used for good. When you want to stay off of your phone to focus on something, you plant a tree in the app. As long as the app is open, your tree will continue to grow. If you close the app and use your phone, the tree dies. Over time your focus can grow an entire forest, and you even have the option to plant some trees in real life thanks to the Forest team.
As one user said: “It's great because it works like a phone game, but it's a phone game that gives you time rather than taking it away."
2. Screen Stopwatch
Are you a bit skeptical about your screen time? You can download Screen Stopwatch, one of the digital wellbeing apps Google created as part of their Digital Wellbeing Experiments. It replaces your wallpaper with a giant stopwatch that starts up every time you use your phone. It’ll track your usage through the whole day, and you’ll watch firsthand as the numbers count up.
3. Screen Time
While not technically an app, Screen Time is Apple’s take on the digital wellbeing trend. With a host of tools built in, you can reduce your screen time or track screen time on other devices for your kids. You can schedule Downtime, when only the apps you choose are allowed to send you notifications, or limit your access to certain app categories so you can focus on the right thing at the right time.
4. Post Box
Another app developed as part of Google’s Digital Wellbeing Experiments is Post Box. This app lets you delay all notifications until a set time. At the moment, the app doesn’t let you exempt any apps, but it’s a highly requested addition that will hopefully be added soon.
The idea here is that you have a tendency to check your phone every time you get a notification, and those interruptions cost you more time. By delaying them, you’ll be able to focus better with fewer interruptions.
+Apple and Android
According to their website, Space is designed “to help millions of people to find their phone/life balance.” It’s a highly customizable app that will help you see your current phone usage habits. You can exclude apps, track your screen time and number of unlocks, and even compare your progress to friends and family.
6. Sentien Launcher
Built on top of KISS Launcher, Sentien Launcher was created as a digital wellbeing experiment one weekend. The question was, could screen time be reduced by using a minimalist interface and a lightning fast smart search?
Sentien Launcher replaces your home screen with a blank screen (or your wallpaper) and a search bar at the bottom. If you want to use your phone for something, you have to intentionally type in what you’re looking for, like an app, contact, or web search. This can help reduce your screen time by preventing you from getting stuck somewhere, aimlessly scrolling because you opened an app you didn’t plan to.
This simple app helps you put away the tech and focus on socializing at the dinner (or any other meal) table. Set the amount of time that you want to stay off your phone, and then place it face down on the table. That’s it for this app, it’s just about keeping you present in the moment, or at least keeping you off of your phone at the table.
Reducing screen time will save your most valuable resource so you can do the things that matter to you, but it will also improve your productivity and focus so you feel more present and more in control. It’s your smartphone, you should be able to use it when you need it without getting stuck somewhere you weren’t planning to be for an extra 20 minutes.
Interested in more tips for improving your digital wellbeing? Check out this blog post for some easy and free ways.
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