Research indicates that screen time can have extremely negative effects on both your body and your mind. In a nutshell, it can fuel addiction and reward-seeking for adults.
Too much screen time can negatively affect your vision, sleep, and overall health. For tweens and teens, the research suggests that too much screen time can lead to attention disorders. Keep in mind screen exposure for children who are under two years old can be especially detrimental and should be avoided at all costs.
The general guideline is that one should not spend more than four hours per day on a screen, so what do you do if you make a living from typing articles, short stories, or novels on a daily basis?
Here’s the good news: You can find ways to limit your screen time and still be productive!
1. WORK SEVEN DAYS PER WEEK
If you are a full-time freelance writer who can decide your own schedule, work for two to four hours per day seven days per work. This will help you be able to get your work done without staring at a computer screen for hours on end. If you are good at math and have realized that this amounts to twenty-eight hours per week instead of thirty, keep in mind that you can handwrite for two hours per week or dedicate this time to research, that way you will still be working full-time.
2. IF YOU MUST BE ON A COMPUTER ALL DAY, MAKE SURE YOU MOVE YOUR BODY
Some people don’t have a choice: they are either freelancers who can only make a living by working ninety hours per week because they’re just starting out and that’s the only way they can pay the rent or they are writers who are required to work on a set schedule. If you can’t afford to limit your screen time significantly, make sure you move your body whenever you can.
See if you can fit in aerobic exercise three times per week for thirty minutes per session and take as many breaks during the day as you can without sacrificing your productivity. There are some excellent short workouts that in a book that Bear Grylls and Natalie Summers wrote together, which combine cardiovascular activity, strength-training, and stretching if you want to get into shape and you have a tight schedule! All of them are under thirty minutes.
3. TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER AT LEAST TWO HOURS BEFORE YOU GO TO BED.
Many of us work late into the night, but it’s important to understand that the blue light from your computer can have a negative impact on your sleeping patterns. Another tip is to purchase a pair or two of blue light glasses. They’re well worth the investment! Instead of working long hours on your device, you might want to use the hours before you go to sleep to do some research, read a book about your project, or take a nice, hot Epsom salts bath to unwind!
4. READ MORE
As writers, it’s super important that we read frequently! We often take this for granted, or at least I do sometimes. Make sure you give yourself time to read books, articles, and stories in whatever genre you write in. This will significantly improve your craft and it’s also great for your mental health.
I’ve found that, on those rare days when I actually meet my goal of limiting my screen time, I can often read an entire book in a week!
5. LIMIT YOUR TV TIME
I know. It sucks! I love watching television. In fact, I’m so addicted to it that I find it difficult to be entertained by much else when I’m not writing.
The problem is that movies and TV shows are bad for your health if you watch them too often. This doesn’t mean that you have to never watch anything, but you might want to limit your viewing time to two hours per day. I’ve found that what works for me is writing for two hours and watching a movie that’s about two hours long: I get to be productive and decompress.
I want to limit this even more though, because I feel like I should be spending my TV time writing. Do what works for you, but always keep track of the time you’re spending in front of that little black box. It’s like keeping track of your expenses: The more you monitor yourself, the more you realize how much of you life is spent sitting on the couch binge-watching your favorite shows!
6. LIMIT YOUR TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA
If you’re like me, you probably find it difficult not to check your email every five seconds to see if the article you pitched got accepted, check your Twitter account every two minutes to see who liked your posts, and check your Medium stats way too often!
Whenever I stop doing this, I realize just how much of a time suck this constant checking is and how much anxiety I have about the results. Remember to focus on the process instead of the money, fame, etcetera.
7. LEARN HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME
This is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned from setting a timer before I write and at least attempting to manage my screen time. Don’t fall prey to watching countless videos on YouTube or telling yourself that you need to respond to every single one of your messages on social media. Prioritize your writing instead.
Don’t listen to music unless it helps you write. You’d be surprised by just how much you can accomplish in two hours if you focus completely on the task at hand!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still a major work in progress when it comes to managing my screen time. Honestly, I live remotely and feel a sense of connection whenever I go online that I often find difficult to access elsewhere, so this is a daily struggle for me.
Nonetheless, I have found that I have less trouble with impulsive spending and have fewer major bouts of social anxiety when I succeed in limiting my screen time.
Subscribe to my blog for tips to stay healthy as you write!