We're spending more time than ever before consuming media. A Nielsen study revealed that media consumption in the United States was at a historical high in Q3 2019. Americans spent around twelve hours a day with media platforms, up from ten and a half hours in Q3 2018.

That was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Although no official stats have been released yet, it's probably safe to say that numbers can only have gone up in 2020. The New York Times even wrote an article about it, titled Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens won.

Not that screen time is always a bad thing. During the lockdown, we connected with our families and friends through Zoom. We made quarantinis together. We attended virtual summits to learn about new things and connect with our colleagues. We followed online yoga courses. The list goes on. We had no choice but to use screens to connect with the rest of the world, and we often did so in endlessly creative ways.

But too much screen time has a serious impact on your health. It leads to eye strain, insomnia, repetitive-use injuries, and a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, much of our screen time goes into things like social media and news, both of which are addictive and not good for your mental health when done excessively.

So here are 5 effective ways to reduce screen time without going into a full-blown digital detox. The majority of these tips will focus on smartphones and tablets, because they're the devices we grab most readily, without thinking about it.

Measure Screen Time First

If you want to sustainably reduce your screen time, you must first know how much time you're spending on your devices. Once you have a baseline, you can systematically reduce your screen time and set clear goals. This way, it'll become a rewarding process with visible improvements instead of a vague attempt to reduce screen time.

Activate the screen time functionality on any of your Apple devices or use any of the third-party apps in Google's Play Store to better understand how much time you spend on which apps and how often you unlock your phone. These apps track everything for you automatically and often work right out of the box.

There are many good digital wellbeing apps in Google's Play Store

Set Hard Limits on Screen Time

Once you have a good idea of how much time you spend on your phone, how many unlocks you average a day, and on which apps you spend the most time, you can start setting hard limits.

You can do this in several ways: you can limit your overall screen time, the number of unlocks, or the time you spend on particular apps. We recommend setting time limits on the apps that you know are non-essential to your work but are serious time sucks (I'm looking at you, every social media app 👀).

Most apps that measure screen time also have features that either limit the time you spend on those apps or block them altogether once you've spent a certain amount of time on them. Use those features!

Create Screen-Free Zones

Our phones have become extensions of our bodies. We take them everywhere, even to places where we don't quite need them. Case in point: the bathroom. How much longer do we spend in the bathroom because we have our phones with us?

When you go to the bathroom without your phone

Reduce screen time by creating zones in your house where you're not allowed to take your phone. The bathroom is a good start. When you're eating a meal is another. The bedroom is the final boss. The harder it feels not to take your phone in a particular room, the more important it is to work on this right now.

Call People Instead of Texting Them

Remember when people used their phones for calling? They might've been onto something. While most young people now revolt at anyone calling them, calling is a great way to get the information you need without spending hours going back and forth via text.

If you have friends or family members that you continuously text with, considering scheduling in a call every once in a while instead. This way, you'll hear their voice, you won't feel the urge to check your phone that often, and you'll significantly reduce unlocks and screen time.

Learn to Cope With Tiny Pockets of Boredom

We often grab our phones automatically whenever we have even a few seconds of empty time. It's automatic behavior, a reflex, because we're looking for the dopamine rush of social media, a new message, or the news.

Ignore its whispers

Unlearning that reflex is a worthwhile way to reduce screen time. It's okay to do nothing for a few minutes while you're waiting for your partner to get ready. Resist the urge to check your phone. You'll get better at this over time.

If you have long periods of empty time, find something else to do: read a book, exercise, draw, play an instrument, etc. Find a hobby you enjoy that can readily replace the empty time you'd otherwise spend on your phone.

These were 5 effective ways to reduce your screen time. How much time do you spend on your screens and how do you limit it? Let us know with a tweet!