Notes to Self: How to cut down your screen time (when your interests are digital)

How to reduce your screen time when your interests are digital

I spend a lot of my time in front of a screen. I love film, I love television and I love the internet (most of the time anyway). By day I work for a charity in their digital team, then I come home and work on this blog, write on my laptop, read other blogs, watch films… On top of that I am, like most people, unnecessarily addicted to my phone, so of course I end up scrolling through Instagram and checking my emails a thousand times a day.

So when it comes to “switching off” I find it quite difficult. I watch films and I blog to unwind, but sometimes I know I really need to take a break from looking at a screen. It’s hard when it’s what keeps you sane and also the thing that sometimes drives you mad.

Headaches and eye strain have become a regular part of my life. I’ve also been reading recently about what too much screen time actually does to your brain and your peripheral vision. It’s worrying stuff. But what to do when your job and most of your interests revolve around looking at a screen?

As with most things, I’ve found balance is the key.

At work I try to take regular breaks and nearly always make it outside, even for just 10 minutes, on my lunch break. It makes such a difference to my afternoon to get some natural light and fresh air before I go back into the office. I try (and mostly fail) to look away from the screen as much as possible – out the window or to the other side of the office. I also love using a notebook for things and this gives me the excuse to do some work on paper every now and then. A rare thing in a digital job!

Outside of the office, I try to make sure I don’t spend every evening on my laptop or watching something (or both! I’m currently watching Friends as I write this…) but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I don’t even realise I’m doing it. I often get to the point where I’ve gone beyond doing anything productive or enjoyable and after mindlessly staring at my screen for hours, I feel awful. Then I finally clock why I’m feeling bad and realise it’s time to shut down. Just turn off everything and stop.

How to reduce your screen time when your interests are digital

Another way I’ve been trying to cut down on screen time is actually putting pen to paper. I mostly write on my laptop – my thoughts move quickly and I type faster than I write – but I’ve started spending more time with a pen and a notebook lately. I used to keep a journal quite regularly, writing most nights before bed, but somehow fell out of the habit. Lately though I’ve been free writing and scrawling thoughts and drafting on paper before typing things up. It sounds so simple but it’s been great. There’s something about actually holding a pen in my hands that somehow lets my mind work more freely and embrace the mistakes rather than quickly deleting them and pretending they didn’t happen.

Then there’s finding ways to occupy my brain that aren’t looking at my phone. When you’re constantly on the go in a city as hectic as London it can be surprisingly hard to just focus on one thing. I’ll put on Netflix and a minute later find myself absentmindedly picking up my phone – like my mind needs the extra stimulation because it can’t relax yet. A solution I’ve found is doodling or colouring in (my friend got me a pack of colour in postcards recently). It occupies my need to be doing two things at once, is quite relaxing and doesn’t involved looking between two screens.

There are ways of cutting down your screen time, without having to give up on everything that involve them. As I said, I think it’s all about balance, you can be a digital nerd without being constantly glued to a glowing rectangle. As amazing as they are, sometimes it’s best to turn them off and do something different.

What do you do to reduce your time in front of screen? Do you find it difficult to get the balance right like me? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips!

If you liked this note, why not take a look through Notes to Self, my (mostly) weekly series of posts helping remind you, me, us to take better care of ourselves.

Images: Death to Stock