Freeing up your time

Exercise 6

Freeing up your time – Part 1

Difficulty level – 3 (difficult)

Time commitment : (-45) minutes everyday

Lonely Together – Erin Pollock 

Till now, we discussed 5 exercises that can take up anywhere between 30-45 minutes cumulatively each day. Exercise 6 helps you provision for that time. Hence the time commitment of (-45) minutes each day. An exercise that takes negative time?

The first thing we need to do is to be aware of how we spend our time. Without awareness, you cannot measure it. Without measuring, you cannot analyse it. And without analysis, you cannot amend it.

So, as a pre-exercise routine, you would need to perform a few tasks:

  1. Commitment – The first step to achieve anything is firm commitment to the cause. This is an addiction – the only way to get rid of it, and get back control, is to commit to making a change. Link this commitment to a reward – a small treat once you achieve your milestones.
  2. Set up a screen-time option on your phone. iOS (the iPhone) has this option in settings, and you can download the Digital Wellbeing app for Android devices.

Measure this for a week, without making any changes to your screen usage. Then, go to the screen time feature and see your results. I have discussed the iPhone-related options here, but am sure that the Android equivalent would have the same categories.

You will be shocked to see how much time you actually spend on your phone. Pay special attention to:

  1. Your average screen time per day – that is the time you spend looking at your phone. I’ve had people coming back with 6-7 hour screen times per day – thats nearly half your waking life spent looking at a phone, excluding the other devices (laptops, television, iPads) that you may have…
  2. Your ‘Most Used’ apps – This shows which app you are addicted to the most. Chances are that Instagram and the browser will share the top spot.
  3. Categories – All apps are grouped into categories. For instance – WhatsApp, Instagram, FB etc., come under Social Networking. Notes, Voice Memos, Hubspot (CRM), email, calendar apps come under Productivity, Books, Wikipedia and information sites come under Reading & Reference. Am sure that your Social Networking group would win hands down in these stats, since most people use their phones primarily for social apps.
  4. Pickups – this is interesting. It shows how many times you picked up the phone. I’ve seen scores above 200…per day! Also pay attention to the ‘First Used after Pickup‘ stats. This is the app you picked the phone up for, mostly because you got a related notification. Can also be the app you check for updates frequently.

Now that you have seen the extent of the problem, let’s get down to the solution.

How you do it

I can recommend what has worked for me, but given the level of addiction, you can customise it for a softer landing. I, for instance, uninstalled the Facebook and Twitter apps from the phone, which forced me to go to my desktop to check these apps. A small step, but significant since it limited the ease of reaching out to my phone, and made me do an additional task of logging on to the computer. Believe me, it helps.

Especially for Twitter, which can be very addictive, given the instant gratification nature of the content that it presents.

  1. Set ground rules – Decide on the time you will spend on social networking at the beginning of the week. Let’s say your screen time was 5 hours – cut it down by 25% in week 1, a further 20% in week 2, and a further 20% in week 3. Thats a 50% cut in 3 weeks.
  2. Slow and steady – This is an addition (I will keep saying this, to drive home the point). De-addiction takes a while, and a slow but sustained approach. Don’t try to drastically cut this down in 1-2 days – you will just end up going back to it in due course. Much like crash diets.
  3. Set Screen time limits for social networking, and individually for WhatsApp, Google Chrome, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and all Messengers. Ideally a cumulative of 45 minutes everyday (for Social Networking).
  4. Use the Downtime feature to limit general access to all your apps set to activate 30 minutes before sleep and one hour after you wake. For example, if you sleep from 10 pm to 4.30, then the Downtime should be set to (at least) between 9.30 pm and 5.30 am.
  5. Stick to these limits – Even with the limits, the phone would give you three options once you run out of time – ignore for a minute, ignore for 15 minutes, and ignore for today. For the first week, you can use the fifteen-minute option. For the second week, the one-minute option. Third week – you should not use any of these options, and stick to the limit.
  6. Measure – everyday. Take a couple of minutes to review the screen times for the day, celebrate small achievements, and don’t get dissuaded if you were not able to reduce it for the day. Analyse the problem, and resolve to do better the next day.
  7. Celebrate – your success in de-addicting, by giving yourself a tangible alternate dopamine shot – buy yourself a small treat. This would be no small achievement – imagine getting over 30% of your life back!

क्षणशः कणशश्चैव  विद्यामर्थं च  साधयेत्  |
क्षणत्यागे कुतो विद्या कणत्यागे कुतो धनम् ||

kṣaṇaśaḥ kaṇaśaḥ ca eva vidyām arthaṃ ca sādhayet 

kṣaṇa-tyāge kutaḥ vidyā kaṇa-tyāge kutaḥ dhanam 


Knowledge and wealth are procured with every moment and grain (respectively). If a moment is wasted, how can knowledge be accrued? If a grain is wasted, how can wealth be accumulated?

कालः पचति भूतानि, कालः संहरते प्रजाः |

कालः सुप्तेषु जागर्ति, कालो हि दुरतिक्रमः ||

kālaḥ pachati bhūtāni, kālaḥ saṃharate prajāḥ |
kālaḥ supteṣhu jāgarti, kālo hi duratikramaḥ ||


Time devours all things, Time kills all that are born.
Time is awake while all else sleeps, Time is insurmountable.

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