Apple just released their new iOS update (iOS 12), and you might have noticed an update in your settings called “Screen Time”.

What is Apple’s Screen Time?

It’s a dashboard that shows you how much you use your phone. You can see how much time you’re spending on your phone, how much time you’re spending in various categories, like social networking, productivity, reading/reference, and more. You can even see how many times you pick up your phone and how many notifications you get (and what times of day those things are more likely to happen!)

Who’d have thought Apple would be so interested in showing you how much you use their product?

Some people might think that this is a horrible move. After all, aren’t people going to want to use their phone less when they see how much they use it?

It’s actually a great play, because Apple knows you’ll keep using your phone, and now they don’t seem like the bad guys who are trying to make you addicted to your phone (ahem, looking at you Facebook).

So how can you use Screen Time to be more productive?

1. No shaming yourself!

When I first tweeted about Apple’s Screen Time feature, I instantly felt a little ashamed. And I wasn’t alone…

If you only feel bad every time you use this, don’t use it. Nobody became more productive by feeling guilty and beating themselves up for it.

It’s kinda like counting calories. You might not like what you see, but if you’re afraid to look, you won’t improve it. Decide that you’re going to look at this purely as a measuring stick, not a stick to beat yourself with.

2. Get a baseline.

This is where the magic starts.

Use your phone as you normally would for a few days, and just see what your average “score” is.

How many times a day do you pick up your phone? What apps do you use the most?

Don’t worry I’ll go first.

More specifically…

  • I’ve spent about an hour just in Messages today.
  • I’ve picked up my phone about 5 times per hour (average of every 12 min).
  • I’ve received 174 notifications (average of 7 per hour).


Today was a little different than yesterday, where I picked up my phone fewer times (about 4 times per hour) and I only received 126 notifications. But still, I know where I stand. Messages is consistently my most used app with Slack coming in second, then Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

3. Clean up your notifications.

Apple’s new update gave some really nifty ways to deal with notifications. There’s a new feature to make notifications “quiet”… basically where they show up but they don’t come up on your lock screen and bother you right away. They only show up in your notification center. (When you swipe down and see a list of things you missed.)

You can also use the new Notification Grouping feature to make sure an app’s notifications are grouped. This way you don’t come back to 20 notifications from Slack. Just one that says you have a lot of messages to read. 🙂

If you’re not happy with the number of notifications you get, or if you can see a correlation between picking up your phone and notifications, use it as an opportunity to clean it up!

A good exercise could be to turn off ALL notifications, and just see which ones you end up wishing you had. I turned off email notifications a while ago, and I haven’t missed them one bit. I only get notified if people on my VIP list send me an email.

4. Ask yourself why you pick up your phone.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with picking up your phone or checking notifications. But chances are it’s distracting you and you’re losing some time each day that you don’t even realize it’s happening.

I took the Facebook app off my phone because I realized that I would just go on auto-pilot sometimes and find myself scrolling through Facebook. I didn’t even realize I had opened the app!

Make your lock screen background a question like “Why Am I picking up my phone?”. Feel free to use this one!

Get in a habit of asking yourself why you’re picking up your phone. You might find you don’t even want to, it’s just a habit that you’ve got to break. (PS – The best way I’ve found to do this is leave my phone in my bag or even in a drawer in my desk so I don’t touch it!)

5. Acknowledge that there are other productivity struggles.

Screen Time is a really cool feature, but it’s not going to solve all your productivity problems.

Honestly, I have just as much of a problem with productivity on my computer. Apple computers and phones integrate so seamlessly, that I can find myself decreasing my time spent on my phone, while increasing my time spent on my computer. (Using the messaging app on my computer instead of my phone.)

There’s also a lot more to mental focus than just taming your phone. No matter what environment you’re in, you’ll find things around you to take your attention. Just be aware the phone isn’t always the bad guy.

As long as you’re not expecting a miraculous breakthrough in your productivity, you’re likely to be happy with the new Screen Time feature as it will help you gain a little more focus in your day. Who knows, over time, it might even train your brain to be less distracted on your computer and your environment!

Are you excited for Screen Time?

I’d love to hear what you think about Screen Time! Post below and tell me if you love it or hate it, or are feeling “meh”.

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