The Disconnected Life: 5 House Rules to Live By, If You Want to Be More Mindful of Your Screen Time

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Kim Marcelo)

Technology gets smarter, cooler and more useful by the day, but between our phones, computers and TVs we tend to spend a lot of time looking at and being distracted by screens. There’s nothing wrong with that—if the tech life is the life for you, that’s great!—but for some people, it can lead to bad habits.

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If you want to be a little more mindful of just how much screen time you’re getting in every day, here are some rules to consider implementing at home and in your daily routine.

Keep Phones Outside the Bedroom

If you’ve ever found yourself groggily scrolling through Twitter at 1am, this one’s for you—try keeping your phone outside of your bedroom overnight. Rather than charging it on your nightstand, charge it somewhere where you won’t be tempted to use it all night. You can also switch to an actual alarm clock if you currently use your phone to wake you up, but if you’d still rather use your phone as your alarm, then make a modified exception: your phone can come into the bedroom with you, but it should be kept on your nightstand or somewhere out of reach—you want to avoid using it in bed, so it doesn’t keep you awake or affect your sleep.

Go Screen-Free One Hour Before Bed

Using your phone, your computer or watching a lot of TV right before you go to sleep can sometimes keep you up later than you want to be, so try giving yourself a break by turning off all your screens an hour before you plan to actually go to sleep. You can use that time to read, get organized for the following day, or even just chat or do something fun with your family, partner or roommates depending on your living situation. It’ll give you some extra time (or at least it will feel like it) to be productive or connect with other people.

Put Phones Away During Meals

Whether you live with others and eat together or you live on your own and eat by yourself (but especially if you’re enjoying a meal with other people), make it a habit that you don’t have your phone out at meal times (exception: if you’ve just made or ordered a truly Instagrammable meal and social media is your thing, go ahead and take a snap). If you’re with friends or family, this will help you and everyone you’re with to be fully present in the conversation, and if you’re alone, it’ll let you focus on relaxing and actually enjoying your meal.

Turn on Do Not Disturb During Activities

Whenever you’re doing anything that doesn’t involve your phone—whether you’re working or doing something otherwise productive, or you’re having fun and just enjoying time with others—turn on the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone. If feeling your phone buzz or seeing the screen light up is the kind of thing that distracts you because you can’t ignore it, Do Not Disturb will stop both from happening so you only see notifications when you manually check your phone. This is especially useful if checking one notification just leads you to scrolling through all your apps (I know I’m guilty of this, which is why I always have my phone on Do Not Disturb when I’m working).

Have Designated Email Times

Does seeing that little red flag alerting you to all the unread emails you have waiting for you stress you out? Try turning off push notifications for your email (if you can—this may not work for you if you have a job or another reason that requires you to be available via email all the time) and giving yourself designated times throughout the day to check and respond to emails, so you’re not constantly being distracted by the notifications and so that it doesn’t keep you from being present with others or productive in the other things you need to get done.