I’ve cut back on screen time by following a strict phone routine, and it’s made my mornings more efficient and productive

The author, not pictured, developed a strict morning phone routine that keeps him productive and on track.

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The author, not pictured, developed a strict morning phone routine that keeps him productive and on track.
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  • The average American adult spends about three and a half hours a day using a mobile device, with much of that time spent in unproductive ways.
  • I follow a strict phone routine each morning, which allows me to save time and get better prepared for the day while not giving up my phone entirely.
  • By following the same steps every day as I use my phone, I’m able to balance screen time with my family morning routine to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Like most people alive these days, I’m guilty of whiling away the occasional half hour scrolling through pointless content on my iPhone.

And sure, maybe I check my phone a few times more than necessary, though I don’t think I check it quite as often as the average American, who reportedly does so 52 times daily. But frankly, I’m not sure, because it’s not like I’m paying hyper-close attention to how exactly I use my phone.

Except during the early mornings, that is, when I am.

Changing the way I use my smartphone in the morning has made my morning routine more efficient and more enjoyable. Whereas my phone used to be a time drain – I’d skim through a news story before pouring a cup of coffee or hop on social media before putting on that second sock – today, a regimented approach to my phone use actually speeds things along and helps set me up for a more productive day.

Here’s how I use my phone in the morning to ensure an efficient routine

On the days my kids allow it (which are few), my morning phone use begins with an alarm at 6:45. I used to set a second alarm for snooze purposes, but I’ve since rejected the practice; once that thing goes off, it’s time to get up and out of bed.

Once up, the first thing I do is check my weather app. That helps me know if the clothes my wife or I laid out for our preschool-aged son the night before still make sense. And if it’s a day I’ll be driving him to school (instead of heading to my office, which is in the basement), it helps me choose my own clothes or amend the selections I made the evening prior.

Next, I’ll check to see if I missed a call or have any important texts that might take priority over any of the subsequent steps. If not, I wake my son (on the one or two days out of the month he has not already been awake for an hour) and then get dressed.

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Back at my phone, I check my news feed. I don’t open a single article unless there is some huge, breaking news. If there’s a story so important I feel the need to be informed then and there, or if there’s an emergency or major issue reported that might affect my family, I’ll open and read it. If not, I note the topics I want to dive into later.

Balancing personal and work phone use is critical

Just because I likely have a dozen emails that need a response waiting for me by the time I wake up doesn’t mean I have to address them first thing. Once downstairs and with the coffee brewing, I look through my email accounts and note the significance of any new messages, but if they can wait an hour, they will.

At this point, my phone goes onto the counter or into my pocket for a solid half hour. I’ll make my son’s breakfast, bring my wife a cup of coffee as she gets our baby up for the day, and have something to eat myself.

Then, when it’s nearly time to see my son out the door, I check traffic using an app.

Before I decided to be more regimented in morning phone use, I burnt up a solid 15 or 20 minutes each a.m. on Reddit, on social media, reading and replying to emails that could have waited, reading news stories, and so on. The problem was that the time I used couldn’t be made up for, what with the looming deadline of the school day, so the end of the morning routine was often needlessly rushed.

I can’t pretend I have the most disciplined phone habits in the nation, but I know I’ve taken better control of my mornings by taking better control of my morning phone use.