It's time for a digital reset. Here's how to streamline your phone and your connection to it so you can spend more time in the present.

By Berit Thorkelson
Updated December 31, 2019
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It’s funny that we still call them phones: Using them to dial someone now ranks among their least utilized functions. They help us plan days and vacations, capture memories and workouts, navigate, bank, shop, and so much more. But research shows that constant attention to our phones is interfering with sleep, mood, concentration, and productivity. Experts agree we need to reevaluate our bond with the device that keeps us company from morning alarm through bedtime Instagram scroll.

Catherine Price, science journalist and author of How to Break Up with Your Phone, suggests you get serious about making the half hour before and after bed phone-free. “Don’t rely on willpower,” she cautions. Instead, stock your nightstand with reading material and replace early-morning emailing with something that sets a better tone for your day, such as stretching. Read on for more tips on powering down.

1. Purge Apps Often

Go through your apps—news, email, games, and social media. Look at each one, considering function as well as whether using it makes you feel good or lousy, and delete liberally. “People forget that you can put an app right back on,” Price says.

2. Organize Your Home Screen

Your home page is prime real estate. Reserve it for the practical apps and tools you require regularly throughout your day or any that support habits you hope to build, such as daily meditation. Dedicate the dock or navigation bar to your absolute favorites.

3. Don't Get Emotionally Attached

Though it's tempting to use a cute photo of your kids or pet on your locked screen, a personal photo can actually strengthen your emotional connection to your phone. Price suggests putting that picture in a frame on your desk and opting for a plain background or inspirational quote on your phone.

4. Reduce Screen Time

Most operating systems include screen-time trackers. Check the report weekly for a clear picture of how you spend your phone time. If you’d like to cut back, the trackers have settings to limit time on specific apps or your phone in general. Apps such as Moment (iOS) and QualityTime (Android) offer similar tracking and blocking.

5. Leave it Behind When You Can

Purposefully leave your phone at home when walking the dog or leave it in the car when meeting a friend for coffee. If you feel the urge to reach for the absent phone, stop and focus. Notice things around you that you’d miss if you were on your phone (besides, glancing at some greenery can boost your mood).

6. Prune Regularly

Maintain your decluttered phone as you would your closet by regularly weeding it out, says tech wellness expert Carley Knobloch. Every month or two, she deletes or recategorizes apps or moves them to the final page—the last-gasp position on her phone.

7. Keep Your Screen Clean

Not-so-fun fact: Your phone is dirtier than the bottom of your shoe. Now that you've decluttered and detoxed from your phone, you may want to think about cleaning the actual phone itself. Helpers like a microfiber cloth or a phone-safe cleaning solution can erase smudges from screens on the go and solve the problem of germ-covered devices.

With these tips to manage time spent on your phone, you can refocus your attention on your surroundings and the special people in your life. Learn to let your phone be out of sight more often, turn off notifications for a while to get a break from social media (and work!), and enjoy living in the moment.

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