5 small ways to unplug everyday


When is the last time you went a waking hour without any screen time?

If you’re like me, it’s been a while. Our phones have become little lifelines to everything we could possibly want—whether it’s a look into how many steps we’ve taken, a direct line to food delivery, or an automatic taxi hailer, our phones serve an almost endless amount of functions.

While it’s undoubtedly convenient to instantly navigate the best route to work every day, our phones have also become a bit of a burden. Last week, I picked up my phone around 101 times per day (according to my screen time tracker.) 101. Times. Since I keep my phone on silent, I often pick up my phone for one reason—only to be distracted by any number of notifications. Twenty minutes later, I forget why I even picked up my phone in the first place.

So, how do I reduce my dependency on my own phone? How do I reduce the pick-ups, the hours spent on Instagram, and my overall usage?

Here are a few tricks I am trying to reduce my phone screen time—to “unplug” a little bit every day.


Full disclosure: I set these up months ago on my iPhone—and I override them every. single. day.
Remember when your parents use to set television time limits? Your mom might yell from the next room over, “Only three minutes left!” Well, since we are all fully-fledged adults, it’s now up to us to enact our own limits. Adulting is hard. Luckily, both the iPhone and Android phones offer ways to limit your screentime.
You can set time limits on certain apps, certain suites of apps (ie. social networking apps,) or on your overall phone usage. You can also set downtime, where your apps snooze from bedtime until the next morning (or whatever time parameters you set.) But, yes, you can override them with a simple passcode. If you’re like me and you lack self-control (or if you just want to look at your phone) you can enlist a loved one to set a passcode that’s a secret from you.
Here’s the thing. As humans, we should be able to have our phones and curb our dependency on them without dragging our loved ones into it. But, in my opinion, getting a little accountability into the mix, especially as a means to form new habits, is not the worst idea.
Set realistic time limits. If you’re constantly going over the Instagram limit, consider increasing it a little bit. Set weekly goals and reduce your usage over time. Let’s form new habits! Let’s let technology help us to do so!


This is a new one I am trying because I like to publicly shame myself into habit changes.
We’re all probably familiar with the rubber band trick. This is a habit-changing technique people use where they use punishment—in the form of a rubber band flicked on your wrist—to recognize and curb bad behavior. Ouch!
This is kind of like that, except without self-inflicted pain. Remember phones as they existed in the 1990s? Every time you picked up the phone, you’d verbally greet the *mystery* guest on the other line. The phone’s purpose was exclusively for speaking to others. This is harkening back to that. Every time I pick up my phone, I make a noise to really register the event.
So, here’s what I am going to do. Every time I pick up my phone for a completely unwarranted reason, I am going to say “Okay,” to myself, but loud enough for Elyse (who sits next to me) to hear (sorry, Elyse.)
I am hoping that my own audible reminder curbs my pickups a little bit.


Consider the apps that have desktop versions, too.
For example, Instagram does have a desktop version, but you can’t access the messaging, nor all the fun that comes with swiping up on stories. However, there are some apps that just don’t need to be on your phone—simply because you don’t need to have access to them all the time.
For me, the best thing I ever did to reduce screen time was to remove Twitter from my phone. Sorry, Twitter. People are hilarious and smart on Twitter, but there’s also an incredible amount of toxic behavior happening on Twitter—at a very high level, ahem.
Get rid of the apps that you don’t need on your phone. Catch up with them on your desktop at another time. You’d be surprised how much you won’t miss.


When I use my phone at lunch, it always ends up the same. I have a greasy screen riddled with fingerprint swipes and I never disconnected from anything.
It’s no wonder we are all so burnt out. We take little to no time away from any screen. We’re addicted to the red notification dots, to the pull-down to refresh feature, and toggling from app to app to app and back.
Leave your phone alone, at least for a little while every day. Go for a walk without her. Turn her off for a few minutes. Leave her home when you’re going out for a lovely dinner with your significant other. Leave her in your glove compartment when you go to the beach.


I was feeling physically crappy this past weekend. As a result, I spent an embarrassing amount of hours (yes, hours!) scrolling through Instagram on Saturday and Sunday—from the fetal position in bed.
We are all familiar with the mental implications social media has. We all know that people are sharing their highlight reels, but that doesn’t always necessarily compute. If you find yourself scrolling through accounts that only make yourself feel worse, get that phone out of your hands!
There are any number of things you can do when feeling down. Bake something, take a nap, or read a few short stories. If you’re feeling particularly down or out of sorts, chances are that social media will only make you feel worse (unless you check out what teenagers are doing on Tik Tok, which is incredibly uplifting, IMHO.)
This article originally appeared on Career Contessa.