Being someone in my mid-30’s I lived in a world before mobile phones dominated the mainstream consumer. I remember what it was like to be bored. I remember having faith in friends to remember an arranged rendezvous. And I remember a world without Google, Facebook. Instagram and Twitter.
Being someone in my mid-30’s I experienced first-hand how Nokia and Snake changed the world for thousands of college and university students. I remember Orange introducing their 5 free daily SMS tariff which removed the need to blindly call around a friend’s house to discover if they were home.
Being someone in my mid-30’s I also experienced Apple and iPhone changing the landscape forever. I remember the feeling of suddenly having what was essentially a supercomputer within my pocket.
Overtime, I slowly began to forget the feeling of boredom as it was replaced with my choice of entertainment app. I no longer required the faith of friends to meet at a pre-arranged rendezvous as I could simply drop them a text or request their location via WhatsApp. Stuck for an answer to a question or a problem? No problem, I could simply Google it. My phone was this amazing pocket computer that provided entertainment, knowledge, communication and more.
Being someone in my mid-30’s I now reassess areas of my life a little more often than my younger self. Do I want to learn new hobbies? How do I want to best spend my time? Do I still enjoy my current hobbies? These are questions I find I ask myself a little more frequently and recently my answers have begun to change.
With the introduction of Screen Time, over the past few months I’ve been questioning the true value of using my phone.
I thought to myself… if each minute spent using my phone equates to £1, am I getting value for my money (my time)? Am I getting any return on the money I spend? Do I have anything to show for my expenditure or am I simply wasting my money?
In short, my answer was ‘no’. If I’m averaging more than 4hrs per day using my phone, I seriously wondered where this time was spent and more importantly, had I grown or improved as a person as a result of this daily investment. After all, equating this time to money means I’m spending more than £240 per day — surely I should be experiencing some form of positive return. It therefore made sense for me to reassess exactly what it is I wanted from my phone and how I could reduce my daily screen time to ensure my interaction was more valuable.
Reducing my screen time
I decided on two ways to reduce my screen time:
1. Reduce my total number of apps
My first step was to order my existing apps into three categories:
- Apps I used daily
- Apps I used weekly
- Apps I rarely used
Apps I used daily
I rearranged the apps I used daily to be displayed on my home screen. Once I had identified these apps, I then questioned their value and my reason for using them. Did I use them as a pacifier to replace boredom? Did I use them out of necessity? Did I use them as learning material?
Once each daily app had a defined use, I deleted all that were used as a pacifier. This included Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This was tough but my ambition to get the most from my phone and to only use apps that would help me learn and grow as a person was my leverage to make this happen.
Apps I used weekly
I asked the same question for those apps I used weekly. Once I had deleted those apps that were not proving value for money or time, I re-organised those that remained into a single folder named ‘Apps’. I ordered these apps based on usage. For instance, apps used for work such as Slack, Mail and Outlook were prioritised ahead of all others. I don’t use these apps daily as typically I’m sat at either my MacBook or iMac, however, I do interact with these sporadically throughout the week. I repeated this process for each page of my ‘Apps’ folder.
Apps I rarely used
The remaining apps fell within this category and consist of those that Apple prevent from being removed from the phone. Apps such as ‘Find my Phone, Health and Settings’ are those that I rarely or never use, however, they’re critical to iOS and therefore cannot be deleted. These apps occupied the final positions within my ‘Apps’ folder.
2. Replace existing apps with those that offer greater value
Once I had minimised my total number of apps, my next step was to specifically and intentionally re-arrange those that remain on my home screen. I replaced apps I used to interact with daily with those I wanted to interact with on a more regular basis and those that would provide greater value. For instance, one of my intentions is to learn French so I placed the Duolingo app where the Facebook app used to reside. Now, whenever I find myself in a state of boredom and my natural reaction is to open Facebook, I find myself opening Duolingo and spending 5 minutes completing a small exercise. I repeated this process for other apps such as Audible and Medium.
My phone is more valuable than it ever has been, and, in a way, it has started to make some small inroads into justifying its hefty price tag (I own the iPhone XS). It is no longer a device which is used as a pacifier or as an entertainment piece, instead, it’s something which is used to assist my growth and development as a person.
As a result of my aforementioned actions, I’ve seen many positive outcomes and I’ve listed the most notable below:
Reduced screen time
My daily screen time has reduced dramatically. I now average between 1hr – 2hrs of time per day using my phone but this time is spent on those apps that bring the most value.
Days where my time is circa the top end of 2hrs are those days I go to the gym. I use the Fitbod app as my primary gym workout app and as my workouts often last for around 1hr, my screen time is higher on these days.
Greater return on time spent
Although the time spent on my phone has decreased, the value of my time has increased remarkably. On average, I spend more than 2.5hrs per week on Duolingo and Medium and in turn, my new language skills are improving whilst my time spent reading and writing Medium articles is also increasing.
This provides a greater sense of achievement as I am witnessing myself grow and learn as an individual.
Overall, I can now confidently state that I am experiencing value for money when using my phone. There are still times when I search and open Safari just to scroll through Reddit or SkySports, however, these occasions are few and far between as the effort required to perform the task outweighs the positive return the task brings.
Almost all of my time is now spent using my phone for the right reasons, reasons that satisfy my current mid-30’s self, reasons that help me develop and advance as an individual.