How to achieve tech-life balance with a phone detox

Reduce your time spent on tech, with these tips

15 Feb 2021

Whether you’d describe yourself as a casual tech user or as someone with a slight phone addiction, the past year has probably seen your screen habits go into overdrive. Many of us have spent the year bouncing from a Zoom quiz to a WhatsApp call, FaceTiming anyone who’d pick up the phone, or doomscrolling until our eyes go numb and our hearts grow heavy.

All this means your tech-life balance is probably completely out of whack. Tech-life balance is a spin on the old work-life balance dilemma and is all about being able to balance your digital life with the one that doesn’t involve peering at a screen.

With our new research into apps revealing that, while people spend a significant amount of their day on apps, they aren’t necessarily happy on them, it’s clear many of us need some tech balance in our lives. Here are a few pointers to help you do just that.


1. First, find out what needs to change

First, get the lay of the land. Before you can make changes to the way you use tech, you need to find out the way you use tech. This means using Apple’s ‘Screen Time’ and Google’s ‘Digital Wellbeing’ features to discover more about your usage.

Some apps also allow you to put a daily limit on the time you get to spend on the app, locking you out once you’ve passed that limit. You could also download specific tracker apps to help map out how much time you’re spending on certain apps.

Then, put your phone down and draw your laptop closer. Similar to phones, some laptops and desktops have browser-based apps that can help track your usage (although good-old notetaking on -gasp- a pen and paper will work just as well). Do the same for your TV watching habits, tablets, and even the time spent checking and rechecking that fitness tracker on your wrist. If you find you’re spending an inordinate amount of time on a specific device or app, make an effort to reduce it.


2. Second, gauge your emotions

The next step is to figure out what tech behaviours make you happy during and after use, and which ones leave you feeling down in the dumps.

Is there a certain app you check far too regularly for anything new to be happening in your second, fifth or eighteenth visit of the day? Are there times when you open (or close) your laptop and feel dread wash over you? Or, are there some apps or devices you’re itching to get your hands on at the end of the day, and you’re unable to think about anything else in the meantime?


3. Keep away from harmful tech

If using your phone, tablet, laptop, or a certain app makes you feel satisfied, productive and motivated, don’t feel obliged to limit your use. After all, there are some apps that simply make life easier - say, for smashing out a quick email, or staying in touch with friends and family. But, if any app or device leaves you with a cloud of negativity, it’s detox time.

Try to limit your use of apps that don’t give you warm and fuzzy feelings or that you compulsively return to for no reason.

Some approaches you can take include:

  • Create screen-free zones or blocks of time: Establish zones in your house where no screens are allowed, whether that’s the kitchen, your bedroom, or even a specific corner in the living room. Or, choose a specific time to switch off all electronics, and give yourself a screen-free morning or evening. Make sure you find something else to occupy your time, or your fingers could start inching towards that smartphone before you realise what’s happening.
  • Switch to an older phone: If you’re looking for tips on how to stop phone addiction, making your phone less appealing could help. Dig out your old Nokia (or scour the web for a brand-new old phone) and use that on designated days or times to keep your app use at bay.
  • Hide your tech away: Making it impossible to physically reach your phone or other device should, hopefully, make it impossible to use it mindlessly. Keep it in a drawer and only take it out at specific times of the day. If nothing else, it’s something to look forward to. Make sure you turn off notifications or keep your phone on silent, so you’re not distracted by the buzzing from your bedside cabinet. You may also want to set a few favourites, so you’re still alerted if there’s an emergency.

Whether you’re looking to curb smartphone addiction or just reduce your time spent on tech, hopefully the tips above have provided a starting point to help. The best part about all this is that the moderation you’re about to enjoy means you can ensure the time you do spend with tech is fulfilling. Talk about a Zen balance.

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