How to boost your productivity in 30 minutes or less

by Aleza Freeman

The days are getting shorter and your To-Do list is getting longer. Between household chores, unending errands and other inevitable obligations, it feels like you’ll never catch up.

If you’re looking for a way to boost your productivity, we have a simple suggestion: Cut down on your screen time.

You may not think you waste a lot of time on your phone, but here’s a surprising tidbit:

Most people spend nearly four hours a day on their mobile device.

Four hours! It’s time for a digital detox. Imagine all the things you could do with four extra hours a day. More realistically, imagine how much more you could get done if you cut out just 30 minutes of phone time daily.

You're now entering the “no phone” zone

Along with all those wasted hours, there are multiple reasons to cut down on screen time. Spending too long on your device can cause vision problems, sleep issues, weight gain, chronic neck pain and even increased mortality risk.

Before we dive into some of the healthier ways to spend your time, here are a few easy tips to help you cut down your phone usage.

  • Turn off your notifications: Instead of checking notifications in real time, turn them off completely. Or, better yet, turn off your phone. Then, set specific times during the day to check your phone and play catch up. By eliminating the constant alerts, phone time will be less sporadic, and you’ll have more time to focus on your To-Do List.

  • Delete your social media apps: Social media apps are a lot like refrigerators. We open them again and again, hoping to find something to satiate us, but it’s usually just a waste of time (and a reminder to buy milk).

    Delete your social media apps and log in through your phone’s web browser instead. Without those tempting app icons on your home screen, you won’t check your accounts as much, freeing you up to do other things … like buy milk (and spend time with friends and family in real life).

  • Go old school: Use a cookbook instead of a web recipe. Check an encyclopedia instead of Wikipedia. Read magazines instead of blog posts (except ours). Get an alarm clock!

    There are countless ways to disconnect without totally checking out.

  • No phone during meals: Ignore your phone when you’re on your lunch break and ban mobile devices during family meals. Your kids will be forced to look you in the eyes and, better yet, engage in conversation.

    The American College of Pediatrics lists multiple benefits for families who eat meals together including improved academics, better nutrition, decreased risk of drug use, less emotional stress and improved family relations.

  • Don’t bring it into the bathroom: Ever find yourself hiding in the bathroom with your phone? Your dirty secret is safe with us.

    At least three out of four Americans admit to using their cell phone in the bathroom, according to a survey BankMyCell. And nearly 85 percent of those same Americans don’t ever clean their phones (which are 10 times dirtier than toilet seats). So, by cutting out bathroom cell phone use you’re not only cutting down on screen time, you’re also practicing better hygiene.

How to spend your extra 30 minutes

Now that you have some extra time on your hands, what will you do with it? We have five healthy ideas.

  1. Walk it off: Don't think you have time to work out? Think again. On average, people walk about 1.5 - 2 miles in 30 minutes. Do that three times a week and you could be covering 6 miles a week, 24 miles a month and 288 miles a year.

    There are countless health benefits to taking a walk; it burns calories, strengthens your heart, eases joint pain, tones your legs and improves your mood.

  2. Scrap it: Remember the baby book you never finished? Or the family vacation photos you printed out last year that are sitting in a box in the garage? A scrapbook is a healthy and creative way to preserve family memories. There’s a meditative quality to making a scrapbook page and the benefits range from lowering stress to giving you a sense of joy.

  3. Write in a journal: Journaling is a tried and true life tool dating back to 10th century Japan. Many historical figures kept journals including Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison and Frida Kahlo.

    Not only is a journal a great creative outlet but writing in one may help you clarify your thoughts and improve your overall mental health. By turning it into a gratitude journal, you can also help block negative emotions and increase your resistance to stress. Now that seems like a worthwhile investment for your time.

  4. Take a nap: Just the word “nap” makes us want to grab our pillow and blanket and snuggle up for a snooze on the couch. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this is a great idea; a short nap of 20-30 minutes will help improve alertness and performance without interfering with nighttime sleep. Are the kids keeping you up at night? One study showed that a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep.

  5. Brighten up your garden: The health benefits of gardening are literally out of this world. Even NASA astronauts in space have benefitted from planting and nurturing seeds. Gardening has both physical and mental benefits for your entire family ranging from stress relief to improved nutrition.

Getting out in the sun improves your vitamin D and digging and planting is a form of exercise. Better yet, a garden may improve your home’s resale value by 5 to 11 percent.

Reducing your phone time won’t solve all the world’s problems. But cutting out just 30 minutes of screen time a day will enable you to build some healthier habits.

With all your increased productivity, you’ll be crossing items off your To-Do list in no time at all.

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Aleza Freeman