Use a simple phone setting to improve your days

Why you should put a meter on your screen time.

Zac Grace
5 min readFeb 2, 2021

I stumbled across this feature while playing around in my phone’s settings. On my phone, it is called digital balance. It was the best unintentional find ever. And the last, because now I don’t play around in my settings anymore.

Who is it useful for?

If you think you spend too much time looking at your phone, this is definitely for you. If you think you don’t spend too much time looking at your phone, think again.

A quick Google search on phone screen time statistics showed me that on an average, a person spends 3 hours and 15 minutes looking at their phone, per day[1].

That is 22 hours and 45 minutes per week.

Sure, some of it is useful, such as the time you spend reading (coughs! Medium) articles. But a lot of it is not spent so well. Just do a search on how much time we spend only scrolling.

The next time you find yourself scrolling down and down mindlessly, remember that the seconds of your life that you scroll away will not come back. Reining in this habit will significantly better your quality of life. The benefits of putting a meter on screen time will become evident after one day’s use.

How does it work?

The digital balance setting allows you to decide how much screen time you are allowed in a day. However much time you think you look at the screen per day, I assure you it is more. Probably a lot more, as it was for me.

Once you burn through the time limit you set for yourself, (depending on your phone) you will have to type in your password to allot yourself more time. You can always see your daily remaining screen time from the pull down notifications. Just allowing yourself more and more time beyond the initial limit obviously defeats the purpose, so don’t do that.

How to best use it?

After the first couple of days of use, you will see how much time you spend looking at your phone. Depending on how much of your work is done on your phone, cut down that time. I suggest being hard on yourself.

I was spending more than 4 hours of screen time per day. I gave myself a limit of 2 hours.

Note that this does not include the phone calls. The proximity sensor turns the screen off during calls.

  • Now, you will have to watch every minute of usage, because there is actual work that you have to do on the phone.
  • Even if it means you don’t finish your work, don’t allot yourself more time.
  • You become more choosy with the articles you read.
  • You text less.
  • The texting you choose to do becomes more meaningful.
  • You start to call and actually talk to people more.
  • Your eyes feel less like an abused lightbulb.

How to decide what to cut?

This part depends on each of you. For me, reading articles is a must. So is taking notes, using my planner, habit tracker and so on.

But I just stopped using all the social media I didn’t need.

I had been using an app for learning a language. In the past few months, I had begun to use it more as a texting platform and focused less on the learning part. I gave it some reflection, and then deleted it.

Notifications are the siren songs of distraction.

If you take an honest look at your phone usage, you will find more ways to cut it down than you would expect.

Let’s take a look at this as a bodybuilder would approach it:

  • Take a first look and cut down all the “junk food” equivalent of phone use.
  • Then take a look at how much time you spend on each app (or for each task) and weigh it against how much value it returns to your life.
  • Cut down on all those activities that take up a lot of time but add little value.
  • Then we need to actually feed time into the useful tasks.

Yes, I’m recommending to actually spend more screen time on the productive tasks.

For example, I was spending about 10 minutes every evening to schedule my upcoming day. I doubled it to 20.

Dedicating more time let me plan better and that eventually led to better days.

Here’s a little nugget: Disable notifications. Notifications are the siren songs of distraction. They trigger all sorts of chemicals in our brain (cough! dopamine) and trick us into looking at the screen when we have better things we need to be doing.

How to best use the additional time gained?

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t use the gained hours to binge watch yet another show.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Of course, work out more.
  • Cook more. Now that you have more time, spend some on preparing healthy food.
  • Spend time with your loved ones: Admit it, at least some of your relationships could be made better if you devoted more time for them.
  • Start a side project: Learn a new skill, or a new language. The possibilities are endless.
  • Create. There is happiness in balancing the scales between consuming and creating content. Add some blocks on the creation side.
  • Or of course, the best choice may be to just breathe and relax. Perhaps meditate, even. 15 minutes of meditation everyday keeps the doctor away (unless you’re married to a doctor, of course).

How to take it to the next level?

I will be writing more on this later. But in a nutshell, the possibilities are as below:

  • Put a time limit on your most used apps.
  • Schedule away time from your screen. This applies to both mobile and computer screens. Take this time to do a quick bit of cardio, some light stretching, and then drink some water.

Final thoughts

I’m well aware that the pandemic has brought on a new need to depend more on our screens. But this is all the more reason to be choosy in how much time we give to our screens. It takes effort not to let the pandemic be a convenient excuse.

To end with, I remind you not to try all of the tips at once. Lasting changes are built one brick at a time. The goal should be to slowly, but surely adopt a minimal-screen lifestyle.

Mobile phones are amazing tools to improve your life quality and productivity. It is on us to use them to improve our lives.





Zac Grace

I write and I code. In love with our beautiful world.