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Imagine this: the year is 2003. Somebody comes up to you and says: “In the future, everyone will be carrying in their pocket a phone connected to the internet, but they won’t use it so much to call. People will be interacting with it an average of 3 hours a day,  picking it up dozens of times. It will ping regularly, to alert people about incoming messages, comments, breaking news. In the street, on public transportation, at the office, while eating at the restaurant, you will notice people with their heads down, looking intently at these shiny rectangular objects. It will be the first thing people pick up in the morning and the last thing they touch before going to sleep.

I don’t know about you, but if somebody had told me this in 2003 – a mere 15 years ago – I would have gotten pangs of anxiety. But here we are, in 2018, most of us unable to go about our day without a smartphone in our pocket. Sure, it’s incredibly convenient to have a mini computer, a web browser, a map, a high end camera, a watch, and a phone all rolled into one. Thing is, before the advent of smartphones I had far better, focused concentration and I read dozens of books every year. I would spend at least an hour on the phone every day talking to friends. And it is no longer the case. My concentration is scattered and I have a gnawing feeling that social media – with the illusion of instant connection – is actually diminishing how much time I spend with friends face-to-face. This is something I think about often – I even mentioned it in the post “The Great Instagram Illusion” – I doubt that if I ever make it to the age of 80 I will look back and think “I wish I could have spent more time on my phone.” Something needs to change.

Do you share any of these feelings?

If you, like me, are interested in dialing down on the time you spend interacting with your smartphone, well, you’re in the right place.

The first Realists Challenge is about… drum roll… Mindful Screen Time. Here is how it will unfold:

  • Week 1 (October 9): you’ll be taking stock of how much time you spend using your smartphone every day.
  • Week 2 (October 16): you’ll set a goal about your desired screen time, identify what you would like to do with the time you “gain”, and incorporate into your daily routine techniques to check your phone less often.
  • Week 3 (October 23): will be about continuing to implement these good habits (and I have many tips to share about things I do to decrease screen time); plus, you will share your thoughts and reflections on this exercise.
  • Week 4 (October 30): We will compile your stories (if you so choose, you could submit them anonymously) and we will share your impressions, along with the most successful techniques to decrease screen time / use our phones in a more mindful way. We’ll publish the results on Patreon as a regular post and also a downloadable PDF, so you could refer to this document without checking a screen.

Are you in?

If so, you have one task: you need to download an app that measures screen time and follow through the app’s steps to start tracking screen time.

For iOS, I highly recommend “Moment” by Kevin Holesh: (I’ve been using it for 2 years and it has changed my life!). Yes, I know Apple has introduced a function called “Screen Time” in iOS 12 but the two are nicely complementary and Moment goes a step further (something I will explain during week 2 of the challenge).

The Realists - Moment by Kevin Holesh


If you’re reading this and you have an Android phone, fear not! There is an Android app called “App Usage” that does the same thing: click here to download App Usage.

As a fun exercise, before installing the app, I would love for you to write down a note of how much time you THINK you spend each day on your phone. We’ll be checking in next Tuesday to see if there was a big difference in between your estimate and the real number of hours you spend using your smartphone every day.

Looking forward to week 2! And if you have any questions or thoughts, please share them in the comment section.