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Let’s be real. We call these things that we lug around everywhere “phones,” and the proper name for them is “smartphones.” But how many times do you actually talk on your phone? These things beckon to us as if they were actually breathing organisms … pick me up … swipe up … double tap … upload a photo … make a list … read, read, consume, buy …

Are you happier because you have a smartphone? Do you see your friends in real life more or less? Do you sleep better? Are you more in shape? More organized? More spiritual? Less stressed?

how to spend less time on phone

We can’t blame all of our ills on our smartphones, and they have, in many ways, made life easier. But, their ability to pull us away from being present or to allow our brains to rest and have the creative thoughts that come from boredom is a real problem for many.

In 2020, at the start of the new decade, many people have a sincere resolution to “be more present” or “spend less time on my iPhone.” Our bodies crave an escape from the intoxicating, addictive magic screen. Here are a few tips on how to achieve the desire to spend less time on your iPhone*.

*Because StyleBlueprint is a digital publication, we can track that over 90% of our mobile readers read on iPhones. For this reason, this article concentrates on this smartphone versus other brands.

RELATED: 5 Etiquette Tips For iPhones at the Dinner Table

5 Tips for Spending Less Time on Your iPhone

Tip #1: Eliminate all notifications from your iPhone.

You do not need to have every Instagram/Facebook like and comment pop up on your iPhone screen. You do not need The New York Times breaking news update to pop up. Emails? Leave them in the email app and turn off notifications. (I do suggest leaving text notifications on.) To turn off notifications, go to the Settings app, then scroll down and click notifications. From there, scroll through each app and turn off each notification you do not want to receive.

The Settings App in the iPhone - an effort to spend less time on phone

After you tap the “Settings” app on your iPhone, the second set of features is the grouping that helps you control your screentime.

Tip #2: Use ‘Do Not Disturb’ with reckless abandon.

Use the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature (available on iOS 11 and above) when going into any situation where you do not want to be interrupted with a text, but you also want those contacting you to know you are out of touch for the next two hours, etc. You can customize the message to say, “I’m in a meeting and will be returning texts after 11 a.m.,” or a more generic “I’m not able to return texts right now but will do so later today.” This way, no one will be waiting for an immediate text response from you.

Side by side of Do Not Disturb and Do Not Disturb While Driving- an effort to spend less time on phone

On your screen filter, tap the crescent moon to turn on Do Not Disturb (on the left), or you can go through the Settings app. To turn on the Do Not Disturb + While Driving feature, and then tap the car (on the right). When you tap the car, the crescent moon automatically lights up. You can tap the car when walking into dinner, the movies, a meeting … and make sure your settings have this automatically turned on when you are driving.

My auto responder when Do Not Disturb While Driving is turned on my iPhone

My autoresponder when “Do Not Disturb While Driving” is turned on. It’s purposefully vague to work for when I’m actually driving or in a meeting. Access this by clicking the Settings app —> Do Not Disturb —> scroll all the way to the bottom, and you’ll see the Auto-Reply place to update your own response.

Along the same lines, and available on all iPhones, use the basic Do Not Disturb. This gets hard with family members, so make sure they know that you use Do Not Disturb regularly and to call if they really need you. You can set your Do Not Disturb to always allow certain friends and family through. Or, you can set your Do Not Disturb to allow anyone to break through if they call two times within three minutes.

You can preset your Do Not Disturb as well. Mine is set from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day so that if my phone is near me when I’m asleep (which I try not to do), a text notification or phone call won’t wake me up. I also don’t like hearing a text come through before 7 a.m. (I like my quiet mornings). But, as mentioned, if it’s an emergency and they call back within three minutes, it will ring.

Tip #3: Delete social media apps from your phone.

Get rid of the mindless scroll of social media by eliminating your social media of choice from your phone. This makes checking it more purposeful when you can only access it from your laptop/tablet/etc. This is a hard one for many, but what’s your goal? If it’s to be off your phone more, to stop the zombie stare and scrolling, then this is more important than accessing these apps on your phone. For some, these apps are necessary for their jobs, so this may not be an option.

Tip #4: Consider deleting email apps from your phone.

This one would be really hard for me, and I don’t think I can do it with my job, but I’m going to start doing this when I need to really disconnect on vacations. Maybe even trying to do so on weekends … just knowing my email is right there is enough for me to check it constantly, and as much as I try to be disciplined, it’s hard. I know I’m not alone, and one of the biggest time-sucks is checking email continuously throughout the workday. Consider leaving all the email reading and replying to more purposeful times, and from your laptop/desktop/tablet rather than when you are on the go.

Tip #5: Use the ‘Screen Time’ feature in your iPhone Settings.

While many of you may already be using this, it has lots of bells and whistles that most people don’t use to their full capabilities, and I wasn’t either until a few days ago. iPhone has come a long way from a few years ago in how it helps its customers kick the iPhone siren call. Here’s how to use the Screen Time feature to its maximum potential.

How to Use the Screen Time app on your iphone when trying to limit screen time

Access the Screen Time feature via your settings. It’s just under Do Not Disturb. After you tap it, you will see a screen similar to the above, which shows your daily average on your iPhone. You might be shocked by how much time you spend on your phone because it does so much for us. The way I use this is to set time limits on my social media icons by clicking the “App Limits.” But, play around with it and see if you would like to do more.

What appears after tapping "app limits" on your iPhone

After tapping “App Limits,” you’ll see a screen like this. I checked “social networking,” but you may want to set times on other aspects of your iPhone.

Social networking apps to help limit screen time

All my social networking apps then appear. I had no idea I had all of this on my phone … I choose to limit the ones I use regularly. You can then choose what your time limit is. I chose one hour a day for all social media icons combined.

RELATED: 5 Social Media Do’s & Don’ts

You can see from this example that, if you take the time, your iPhone can actually help you stay off of it!

Bonus Tip: Get some friends and family to hold you accountable.

There’s nothing like actual human pressure, in addition to these technical barriers you can set up, to make your resolution for spending less time on your phone actually happen. Ready to get started? Share this article on Facebook and ask if anyone wants to join you. That’s the good thing about social media. You’ll likely have some takers today, and you can get started enjoying more time in your real life and less time in your virtual life.

Cheers to an amazing 2020!


For tips on how you can tackle a deep “spring clean,” see: 4 Weeks to Spring Clean: Your Guide to a Tidy Home. 

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