The Screen Time-Satisfaction Relationship (& On Using A Habit Tracker)

I’m experimenting with James Clear’s habit tracker this quarter.

I keep it simple with a PDF print out (linked above) folded into my journal. I check in each evening.

One of the habits I am tracking is screen time (on my phone) to be <1 hr. Let me tell you why, and what I’ve learned so far.

image of screen time for the week.
Screen Time (*note* messages get blocked under “social”)

Why track screen time?

Screen time is upstream of distraction, shallow thinking, and a general sense of “where did the day go?” This is not a new problem that I’ve been grappling with, as I wrote about 5 steps to escaping the smart phone trap here. Even with these steps in place I still found myself killing time on my phone after all my house-hold chores were done from time to time.

The lure of maybe finding something interesting or useful pulls me in too frequently. I should be doing something I know will be interesting or useful like picking up a book, journaling, finishing up a chore, or just going to bed earlier.

In short, there are many better things to do.

If I’m using technology like the tool that it is, I should use it for just that.

I want to use it like a power drill: I need something done. I pull it out. Accomplish the mission. Put it away.

What I’ve learned so far:

There is an inverse relationship to screen time and satisfaction with my days.

It looks something like this (k is our constant):

S = k/T

Over the last two weeks I have found myself feeling much more satisfied with my days when I’m coming in less than 1 hour. Things I was not finding time for, that add real value to my life, I have suddenly found time for again (journaling, picking up an instrument, just thinking).

Is it that simple that I just needed a tracker to keep my screen time down? Maybe. I’ll continue the experiment.

I am generally an optimist around technology, but look to keep it in its rightful place within my life. Steve Jobs referred to the personal computer as a bicycle for the mind. Reducing screen time is one more safeguard to keeping our phones more like a bicycle and less like an Orwellian prolefeed.

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