How many times a day do you check your phone? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it’s probably pretty often. Your phone is always within your reach, right? What if I told you that finding time to unplug could bring you closer to the life you truly want?
Hear me out –
When you’re at home with your kids, is your phone in your back pocket or sitting on the kitchen counter so you can get every notification that comes in right away?
Does the ding of a new text message or email give you a jolt of excitement (or perhaps a wave of anxiety), summoning the urge to respond right away and inevitably distracting you from whatever you were doing?
Do you find yourself half listening to the story your husband is telling you about what happened at work because you’re in the middle of responding to an “urgent” text from your mom friends about which sports you’re gonna sign your kids up for next spring?
What about once you get into bed at night? Are you scrolling IG reels only to realize a good 45 minutes later that it’s now too late to read a chapter of that new book you’ve been wanting to get into?
Does any of this sound like you?
Yeah…..me too. I’ve definitely been down this road and I know I need to do better. So lately I’ve been trying, because I realized something important.
Our phones are cheating us.
They’re cheating us out of our time and they’re cheating us out of the grounding, intention, joy, and purpose we so want in our lives. Maybe not entirely, but in some way.
That’s because building a life of joy and purpose starts with one thing and that is being present and grounded in every moment, or at least as much as possible. When we’re constantly distracted by our phones, not only is it really hard to find the time for joy and purpose in our lives, but also to carry out the intentions we set.
Finding time to unplug is vital to living life the way you truly want.
Of course, we can’t completely unplug, but in this post, I will share some ideas for tweaks you can make to your phone usage in order to take back your time and take back your life.
Opportunity Cost of the Scroll
We are slaves to our phones, me included. I’m not going to go into all the statistics about smartphone usage in our day and age except to tell you that the average American checks their phones up to 63 times daily (Source: SlickText) and spends over 5 hours on their smartphones on an average day (Source: ZDNET).
Think about what you could accomplish in 5 hours! Heck, even if you took back just half of those hours…
Furthermore, according to a leading study on smartphone usage, most people grossly underestimate the time they spend on their phones by nearly 50%, which indicates that a lot of our smartphone use is truly habitual. We don’t even think about it, we’re simply addicted!
I thought I spent about 1-2 hours on my phone each day, but when I went to check my screen time usage in my iphone settings a few weeks ago, my daily average was actually closer to 3 hours per day and that’s not even counting the time I spend on my ipad.
Go ahead and check your own screen time usage and prepare to be horrified.
If just the sheer amount of time we waste fiddling around on our phones isn’t enough to convince you that something’s gotta give, consider the opportunity cost of the scroll (ya know, constantly scrolling on your phone, checking your inboxes and social media feeds, etc. etc. etc).
Every time you say YES to turning your attention to your phone, you are saying NO to something else.
We often feel overwhelmed and claim “there’s not enough time in the day”, but those 30 minutes you spent scrolling on Facebook could’ve been used to do a workout or meal-prep a week’s worth of salads for lunch.
That hour of browsing on Amazon for more stuff you don’t need could’ve been used for updating your resume (like you’ve been meaning to do for the past 6 months) or paying some bills.
The 25 minutes you wasted reading celebrity gossip from the email UsWeekly just sent you could’ve been precious time to catch up with your husband or snuggle with your 4 year old before bed.
And hey, don’t for one second think I’m saying any of this to pass judgment, rather I’m saying it because I’ve done all these things….REPEATEDLY….I do these things.
But lately I’m trying to be more mindful of my phone usage because I see the opportunity cost. And it’s huge.
So, if you’d like to work towards building the life of joy and purpose that you desire, then I encourage you to try finding time to unplug each day and see for yourself what a difference it can make.
7 Ways to Find Time to Unplug
If you’re still reading at this point, you’re probably thinking “ok, I get it, but easier said than done”.
How do you actually find any significant amount of time to unplug each day?? You need your phone to work, stay in touch with people, and manage your life, right?
Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to go off the grid or to do a complete digital detox, although it can be really beneficial if you choose to. Rather, I’m simply suggesting that you try establishing blocks of time each day when you will be “unavailable”.
It can be as little as 15 minutes at a time, but if you put these phone-free time blocks into place, they will add up and you will certainly see a positive impact. I promise you, it can be a game changer in how you show up in your life.
Below are 7 ideas for finding time to unplug each day:
1.) Set your phone on automatic ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode at a specific time each day
Pick a certain time each day that you want to be phone-free and in your phone settings, program it to automatically change to ‘do not disturb’ mode during that time. This way, it’s already pre-programmed and you don’t even have to think about it.
Consider a block of time that will work for your schedule each day or at least a few days a week. Maybe it is from 7pm-7am or after school for an hour. Another time that might work for you is during dinner or every morning from the time you wake up until the kids are out the door.
I put my phone on ‘do not disturb’ from the time I wake up for my morning routine until about 8am and then again during the day when I’m writing so I can be productive and not get distracted with incoming texts and social media updates.
Whichever time you choose, you will benefit from not being notified of incoming calls, texts, emails, etc. and giving yourself the space to essentially be unavailable to the outside world.
2.) Charge your phone in another room overnight
If you find that you get distracted by your phone when you get into bed at night, then don’t let it be a part of your evening wind down routine. Completely remove it from your nighttime ritual by leaving it in another room to charge once you go to bed.
I know a lot of us normally use our phones as an alarm, so if that’s the case for you, just go out and purchase a good old alarm clock (or have Alexa wake you up). That way, you don’t even have to think about your phone until the next morning!
3.) Completely turn off notifications
Another idea is to completely turn off push notifications altogether in your settings. This way, your phone will no longer alert you when a new email, text, social media update, etc comes in.
By doing so, you eliminate the constant buzzing, beeping and dinging throughout the day and take back control of when you allow your attention to be diverted to your phone.
Instead, set aside dedicated time once or twice each day when you will check your inboxes and I guarantee you will feel less scattered, overwhelmed, and distracted knowing that you are in control of your phone, not the other way around.
4.) Unsubscribe from email lists
I know it can be tempting to sign up for email lists in order to get freebies and special coupons, but if the emails you’re receiving from these subscriptions don’t offer a real benefit in your life (i.e. valuable information, helpful tips, and inspiration like my emails do 😉) or if you find they’re simply clogging up your inbox, then it’s time to unsubscribe.
When an email is from a mailing list, you will usually see an unsubscribe link right next to the sender’s email address or if not, you should be able to scroll to the bottom and find the unsubscribe link in the footer of their email. I’ve also used the Unroll.Me app in the past to quickly unsubscribe from multiple lists at once.
Think about the time you will save from no longer having to delete unwanted emails, not to mention the peace you will get from eliminating a big chunk of those pings and dings from email notifications!
5.) Set screen time limits
Did you know that your phone can actually help you manage how much you use it? Once you establish how much screen time you will allow yourself on a daily basis, you can ‘set it and forget it’ by using the optional screen time settings that come with your phone.
On the iphone in particular, there are a few different ways to utilize screen time limits:
- Downtime – allows you to set times during the day when only certain pre-selected apps that you choose will be available for use.
- App limits – you can set daily time limits for different app categories like social media, entertainment, and others. After you reach your limit for the day, the apps in those categories will locked for use until the next day.
- Communication limits – creates limits on who you can communicate with from your contacts during set times.
6.) Put it away
Maybe you feel that you’re too far gone in your phone addiction and even if you put it on ‘do not disturb’ mode, you’ll still have serious trouble fighting the urge to constantly tap the black screen to see if any messages have come through.
In that case, simply turn it off and stash it in a drawer somewhere for a couple of hours each day.
Leave it in your car while you go to pick up your kids from school so that the first thing they see is your smiling face when they come out of the school building, not the top of your head while you’re staring down at your phone.
Or how about you put your phone in another room while you’re eating dinner with your family or helping your kids with homework?
Whatever you choose to do, just put it away, out of your reach for some time each day.
7.) Screen free day
If you really want to take it step further, consider having a screen free day once a week. It’s probably easiest to do this on a weekend, but choose any day of the week that works for you and simply turn off your phone and other smart devices like your ipad and/or computer.
I’ve yet to give this a try, but I’ve heard it’s a wonderful thing to completely unplug for a day each week. I don’t know if I can manage to devote an entire day to being screen-free, but I may try it for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and see how it feels to completely eliminate the distraction of my phone for a few hours and be truly present in however I choose to spend my time.
Still have objections to finding time to unplug?
Now you might have skimmed through all my suggestions thinking that sure, you understand the importance of disconnecting from your phone every now and then, but still it’s just too unrealistic.
You need to be accessible at all times, right? What if an email comes in from your boss or there’s an emergency with your kids or another family member?
But really, the likelihood of there being an emergency at the exact specific time that you choose to unplug is highly unlikely.
If it gives you any peace of mind, think back to your childhood before we even had mobile phones, let alone smartphones. You likely had an answering machine at home and your mom would go about her day doing the things she needed to do and check in with the messages periodically or when she got home.
And everyone was ok. We managed perfectly fine.
When it comes to work, maybe you do have a unique situation that requires you to be accessible 24/7, but most of us do not.
Furthermore, if we allow our work colleagues access to us at all times, then what precedent are we setting? That we will always be available to respond to work emails and the like no matter when or what else we have going on in our personal lives? Is that really an expectation you want to set yourself up for?
7 Ways to Find Time to Unplug (and Take Back Your Life)
There is no denying that our phones are a huge part of our multi-tasking lives and they help us in many ways, but constantly being plugged in can also deprive us of the grounding, presence, and intention that’s needed to live a joyful and purposeful life.
I hope you’ll try some of these ideas and that they might lead you to find a healthier phone-life balance that works for you.
Comment below and let me know which one you’ll try first or if you have other suggestions that have worked well in your life!
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Carly is a wife, mom, and former NYC fashion industry executive turned writer and life coach. Through her writings on littlevoicebigmatter.com, she shares practical advice, heartfelt insights, and actionable resources to inspire and support women in motherhood, relationships, wellness, and life. Carly also helps women create better balance in their lives and live with more joy, purpose, and connection every day through her coaching.