If you’re anything like me, you spend the majority of your time huddled over a laptop. You stare at a screen all day at work, and then you come home and stare at a screen for a few more hours. Eventually, you start to wonder whether what you are doing could be considered “living.” It’s a tough moment when you realize that you would probably be lost in boredom without your screens.
Luckily, breaking habits is possible. And it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Here are a few of the steps that I’ve been practicing lately.
8 Tips For Breaking Your Screen Addiction
1. Keep daytime computing productive, even on days off.
I understand that you’ll probably check your social media accounts and email a few times throughout the day, but fill the vast majority of your daytime computing with productive tasks. Set a time in the evening for Netflix, or Youtube, or whatever your time off entails. Blocking off your time like this will make you feel less guilty for indulging later in the day.
2. Get into a seasonal outdoor activity.
Snowshoeing, bicycling, running, climbing, yoga—choose something that you are interested in improving upon and/or could get into doing every day. This has to be a fairly easy decision that you don’t have to talk yourself into. It also has to be something you can do without following a Youtube video (that means learning yoga sequences and doing them on your own, or attending a class).
3. Plan your screen time on paper.
Before you open your laptop, grab a notebook and write a list of tasks that you need to achieve during that time in front of the screen. Write this, send this, check this. If you think of something else during your screen time, add it to the list (this way, you’ll keep it in mind for tomorrow, or next week, or whenever).
4. If Netflix is calling your name, watch a documentary.
Make a compromise. Instead of binging on The Office, watch a documentary. Add a bunch of potential documentaries to your list to make the process of choosing an easy one when the time comes. At least you’re learning something while you watch.
5. If you still feel like binge-watching something, evaluate after ever episode.
Remind yourself after each episode just how long you’ve been watching. This way, the hours won’t creep up on you and you’ll probably feel too guilty to keep watching before the evening gets away from you.
6. Listen instead of watching.
Listen to podcasts, audiobooks, entertainment, or education. Cutting out the visual element can be a good first step to cutting out the mindless watching.
7. Get back into reading.
I don’t read nearly as many books as I used to, and that’s kind of sad. Getting started with one good book can be enough to get you back into reading habitually, rather than turning to the computer when you’re looking for entertainment. Also, staring at a screen before bed is supposed to be bad sleep hygiene, right? So, there’s another reason to fall asleep with a book in your hands rather than a laptop on your lap.
8. Use Apps.
You might think that it won’t help, but using an app like RescueTime really can have an impact on how you spend your online time. I happened to get it the same week that I watched Making A Murderer, so I know what Netflix-guilt feels like. Getting an email that really shows you how many hours you’ve spent on various tasks throughout the week can be motivating, especially when you can so easily compare the results to previous weeks.