Seven ways to reduce screen time on your devices

These tips can help control your addiction to your devices.

Celeste Lim

Yogurt lover with a Spotify playlist for every mood.

Published: 21 January 2021, 1:28 PM

It almost feels like our entire lives are consumed by screens. 

Even after spending the whole day working at a laptop, most of us continue to stare at screens late into the night, be it watching Netflix on the television or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram stories on a phone. 

In fact, a survey conducted in 2019 showed that Singaporeans spent a whopping 11 hours and 21 minutes using online media daily.

Spending that much time on our devices naturally puts a strain on our bodies. I’m sure I’m not the only one complaining about my stiff necks and dry eyes, common side effects of staring at screens for far too long.

If you are considering ways to break this addiction, here are seven things you can try to reduce your screen time.


You can often find me playing games on my phone and watching a YouTube video on my laptop at the same time. PHOTO CREDIT: TARAS SHYPKA VIA UNSPLASH

1. Turn off your notifications

We get distracted when our phones vibrate with an alert, or when our laptops light up with a notification. 

It’s common to stop whatever we were doing to respond, even if it wasn’t urgent. In a study where participants had to turn off their notifications for 24 hours, they reported that they were less distracted and more productive.

Instead of letting these pesky notifications disrupt you, considering turning off push notifications for those applications. Alternatively, you can switch on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to avoid getting notifications altogether.


Of course, you can’t always avoid notifications – make sure your email notifications are on when you’re at work. PHOTO CREDIT: MORGAN HOUSEL VIA UNSPLASH


2. Move your frequently-used applications to a different page

It’s a simple trick, but moving your applications to a different page really works for reducing your screen time.


I like to put my addictive applications in a folder to remind myself not to use them. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CELESTE LIM


After rearranging the apps, when you instinctively try to tap on your favourite application, you will realise that it is not in the same position. Then, you have to swipe to get to the page the app is on.

The extra few steps it takes to access the app will remind you that you should be spending less time on that app.

3. Stop using devices 30 minutes before sleeping

Whether you were watching a relaxing ASMR video or thrilling horror movie before going to bed, chances are that you won’t get a great night’s sleep. That is because blue light from screens inhibits your body’s melatonin production, making it tougher to sleep and wake up.

Instead of using your phone from the comfort of your bed, you should establish a 30-minute routine before bedtime that does not involve any screens.

Some activities you can engage in include spending time with a family member or pet, reading a physical book, or meditating.

4. Set your devices to greyscale mode

Believe it or not, your screen is a lot less interesting when there aren’t any colours on it. 

If you want to look at your screen less, you can set your devices to greyscale mode. 

For people who took part in the ‘Go Grey’ initiative, where they permanently switched their phones to greyscale mode, they found their phone’s new lacklustre appearance made them put it down more. 

Some even considered changing their laptops to greyscale mode as well.


If your entire phone screen looked like the photo on the right, you would be less willing to constantly use your phone. PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN-MARK SMITH VIA UNSPLASH

5. Set a screen time limit on your phone

If all else fails, you can restrict yourself by setting a limit for certain apps or websites. 

You can set the total duration you allow yourself to use an application or website via your phone’s built-in settings, or even useful Chrome extensions such as StayFocused

Once you exceed that limit, you will be locked out of the app or site, and won’t be allowed to access it until the next day.

6. Go out without a portable charger

We often use our phones so much that they run out of battery. Portable chargers can be useful and convenient, but you don’t have to rely on them.

By going out without a spare battery, you will be more careful with your screen time, and less inclined to use your phone. 

When travelling, you can now admire the view or do some people-spotting while listening to a podcast or audiobook. 

Or you can pretend you’re in a music video by playing a sad song and looking out of the window dramatically. Bonus points if it’s raining!

7. When out with others, commit to not using your phones

When eating a meal with a group, we often text our friends instead of talking to the ones right in front of us.

To encourage everyone to use their phones less, pile all the phones together, and make a bet that the first person to reach for their phone has to pay for the entire group’s meal. 

This way, you get to be fully present when talking to your friends.


If someone gives in to temptation, you get a free meal! PHOTO CREDIT: JENNIFER KIM VIA UNSPLASH


Although it may sometimes feel like we cannot live without our devices, there are certainly ways to use them less.

Hopefully, these tips can help you rely on your devices less, and make you appreciate the things around you more.

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