How to Get 1 Hour of Your Life Back Every Day: Smart Smartphone Tactics

10 little nudges improve life by reducing stressful, wasted time on your phone

Robert Roy Britt
3 min readMay 20, 2022

Image: Unsplash/Yanapi Senaud

We can argue for hours on social media whether excessive smartphone use is an addiction or not, but since the average person spends 20% of their life on their phone—risking additional anxiety, depression, and ultimately loneliness — our time might be better spent figuring out how to recover just a fraction of that valuable commodity for healthier pursuits.

A new study tested several ways to reduce wasted time on smartphones, revealing 10 little nudges that generated a full hour of time recovered each day for the average participant.

The tests involved university students who employed, on average, about eight of the suggested nudges for a few weeks. Compared to a control group, they not only gained free time but also reported improved sleep quality.

The nudges, in order of effectiveness:

  1. Reduce notifications
  2. Enable screen-time tracking
  3. Keep your phone away while sleeping
  4. Set your phone screen to grayscale
  5. Hide social media apps
  6. Make your phone less accessible
  7. Make your phone harder to unlock
  8. Change your display settings
  9. Move phone tasks to computers
  10. Leave your phone at home when you can

“Most of the participants spent four to five hours per day on their phones,” says study leader Jay Olson, PhD, a researcher in psychology at McGill University in Canada. “The intervention reduced this by about an hour per day, sometimes freeing up the equivalent of an entire full-time work week per month.”

That’s plenty of time to vastly improve your well-being by, say, going for a daily walk, maybe pursuing some entirely new goal that gets you out of your comfort zone, or otherwise adopting a healthy new habit. And if you silence your phone during these new pursuits, you’re in double-bonus territory.

More evidence that these nudges work

Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower