Entertainment & Lifestyle

Digital Detox : 16 Steps Guide to Restrict Smartphone Usage in Free Time

In an era dominated by smartphones, where our lives are increasingly intertwined with screens; it has become crucial to maintain a healthy balance between our digital and real-world experiences. The incessant beeping of notifications, the endless scroll through social media feeds, and the constant urge to check our smartphones have become habits that can, at times, lead to digital addiction. However, recognizing the need to disconnect from our screens during our free time is the first step towards regaining control over our lives. In this guide, we’ll explore effective strategies for restricting smartphone usage and making the most of our precious moments of leisure.

Redirecting Smartphone Craving: The Power of Replacement

digital detox

One of the fundamental principles of habit change is that it’s often more effective to redirect cravings rather than attempting to eliminate them entirely. Our minds, like curious children, resist suppression but respond well to redirection. In the context of smartphone usage, this means finding alternative activities that fulfill the needs your smartphone typically satiates.
Consider the urge to mindlessly scroll through your social media feed. You pick up your phone, your thumb hovers over the app icon, and then it hits you: “Wait, is there anything substantial or meaningful happening here?” The answer, more often than not, is no.

How to make a start? (Key takeaways)

Getting started with a digital detox might seem daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to reaching for your smartphone whenever there’s a pause in your day. However, it’s a journey well worth embarking on. It’s difficult to make a start to utilise the time, you spent on smartphone. So I will advise you some quick tips that helped me:

  • App Uninstallation: Halt the never-ending scroll through your ‘infinite’ social media feed – start uninstalling apps and unfollowing people that make you feel inferior and unmotivated. Identify the apps that consume most of your time and contribute the least to your personal or professional growth. These could be addictive games, time-draining social media apps, or mindless entertainment platforms. Uninstall these apps or at least move them to a folder that’s less accessible. This step removes the gratification and the temptation of checking social media frequently.
  • Divert the time that you spent on those noxious apps, in doing some constructive work like reading newspaper, programming, writing your thoughts etc. These constructive habits will inculcate a sense of self-growth and achievement.
  • Best way to resist your cravings, is to redirect them: You don’t get rid of bad habits, you replace them with good ones. You could start writing your thoughts in your notes (it’ll also help you introspect) when free. Read blogs and articles. Play games that improve your cognitive skills and memory. There are lots of mind-puzzling games (Sudoku, Crossword etc) like that. These smartphone activities won’t tempt you to frequently check your phone, because of their monotonous nature.
  • Add some value: Watch some educational lectures or TedX talks instead of watching some series or movies on OTT platforms. Watching these informative videos will enrich your knowledge and perspectives, and broaden your horizons.

Also read: What is one thing which could improve your sleep quality & productivity?

Hitting the Reset Button: Starting Your Digital Detox Journey (16 Steps)


You will feel the urge to check your smartphone for once but realise that nothing substantial is happening on social media. Restricting smartphone usage in your free time can be a helpful way to maintain a healthy balance between screen time and other activities. Here are some practical tips to help you achieve this:

1- Set Clear Goals

Define why you want to limit smartphone usage. It could be to spend more time with family, be more productive, or reduce the impact of digital time on your mental health and sleep.

2- Use Screen Time Tracking Apps

Many smartphones have built-in screen time tracking features. Use these tools to monitor your usage patterns and identify areas where you can cut back.

3- Establish Smartphone-Free Zones:

Designate specific areas, like the dining table or your bedroom, as smartphone-free zones. This can help you focus on the present moment and reduce the temptation to check your device.

4- Create a Schedule

Set specific times during the day when you can use your smartphone. Outside of these times, keep your phone out of reach.

5- Prioritize Activities

Plan your day with activities you enjoy that don’t involve your smartphone. This can include hobbies, exercise, reading, or spending time with loved ones.

6- Disable Notifications

Turn off non-essential notifications to minimize distractions. You can enable “Do Not Disturb” mode during certain hours.

7- Use App Limitations

Most smartphones allow you to set app-specific time limits. Allocate a limited amount of time for social media, games, or other time-consuming apps.

8- Keep Your Phone Out of Reach

When you’re engaged in other activities, leave your phone in another room or use physical barriers (like putting it in a drawer) to make it less accessible.

9- Practice Mindfulness

Develop mindfulness techniques to resist the urge to check your phone impulsively. Breathing exercises and meditation can help.

10- Accountability Companion

Share your goals with a friend or family member who can help keep you accountable. You can even challenge each other to reduce screen time.

11- Reward Yourself

Set up a rewards system. If you successfully limit your smartphone usage for a day or week, treat yourself to something you enjoy.

12- Uninstall and Replace Unnecessary Apps

Consider uninstalling apps that consume a lot of your time. Replace addictive social media apps with their ‘monotonous’ counterparts. For example, instead of browsing Instagram, start reading blogs or browse Q&A sites.

13-  Use App Blockers

Explore apps or features that allow you to temporarily block access to certain apps or websites during specific hours.

14- Learn New Skills

Use your free time to learn a new skill or hobby that doesn’t involve your smartphone, like cooking, playing a musical instrument, or painting.

15- Reflect Regularly

Periodically assess your progress. Reflect on how reducing smartphone usage has positively impacted your life, and adjust your strategies as needed.

16- Restrict the use of social media apps to certain times of the day.

It will help you restrain your smartphone usage and will eventually come into your routine.

We should realise that this little exercise of restricting the use of smartphone in our free time will inculcate a habit of self-control in us. This endeavor is more than just reducing screen time; it’s about cultivating self-discipline and strengthening our willpower.

Also read: 10 Life Changing Effects of 15 Minutes Of Meditation

There’s more..


Restricting smartphone usage can have a profound impact on your personal development. Here’re some additional advantages that restricting your smartphone usage have:

  • Enhanced Productivity: Freed from the shackles of digital distraction, you’ll have more focused blocks of time to work on tasks, engage in deep thinking, and complete projects efficiently. This enhanced productivity can significantly impact your professional life, allowing you to excel in your career. Moreover, reading blogs and browsing Q&A sites will not only enhance your knowledge but will also help you develop a reading habit.
  • Mental Clarity: A cluttered digital life often leads to a cluttered mind. By decluttering your smartphone and reducing screen time, you create mental space for relaxation, creativity, and self-reflection. This clarity of thought can lead to better decision-making and a deeper sense of inner peace.
  • Quality Time: Perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of restricting smartphone usage is the spared quality time. Time that was once lost to endless scrolling can now be invested in meaningful interactions with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or simply enjoying moments of solitude in the embrace of nature. Spending quality time with family and friends is a luxury in today’s fast-paced world. A digital detox can help you treasure these moments.

Remember that the goal is not to eliminate smartphone usage entirely but to use it mindfully and in a way that enhances your overall well-being. Gradual changes and small adjustments can lead to more significant improvements in how you use your smartphone. By redirecting cravings and initiating a digital detox, you can regain control over your digital life and create space for personal growth and genuine connections.