Apps That Can Help You Spend Less Time on Apps

While it may seem counterintuitive, I highly recommend using apps to improve your relationship with your phone.

If you have suggestions beyond the ones listed here, please leave a comment.

Phone-Usage Tracking Apps:

Phone-usage tracking apps can help you get a sense of how much time you're spending on your phone each day, and how often you're reaching for it—which can be a very useful wakeup call. Most of these apps also allow you to set goals for yourself, and can send you reminders and alerts when you're reaching your self-defined limit.

My current favorites are Moment for iPhone and Quality Time for Android.

Note that some of these tracking apps require you to let the app track your location. This isn’t for a creepy reason; it’s how the app knows when you’re using your phone. Check out the apps’ FAQ pages for more detailed explanations.

You also may want to check out RescueTime, which helps you increase productivity by tracking the time you spend on various websites.

App- and Internet-Blocking Apps:

These are exactly what they sound like: apps that can block your access to websites and other apps. I highly recommend the paid versions, which (at least in Freedom's case) allows you to preschedule sessions for yourself in advance. The most obvious use of these blockers is to keep yourself focused at work (e.g. set a 2-hour session for yourself where you can't check your email or the news). But I also find them to be very useful in helping to set limits at home. For example, if you're trying to break the habit of checking social media before bed, set a recurring session that doesn't allow you access to those apps for the two hours beforehand. Similarly, if you would like to have a morning without your phone, schedule a session that blocks all your websites and apps till later in the morning. That way, even if you end up reaching for your phone, you won't actually be able to indulge in the habit that you're trying to break.

At the moment, my favorite app-blockers are Freedom for Apple and Windows products, and Quality Time for Android—though I suspect/hope that others may soon be on their way. (If you know of any, please leave a comment.)   Freedom allows you to block apps and sites across your devices, and its paid version is well worth it, because it lets you schedule recurring sessions in advance.