Habits Productivity Technology

How to Use Your iPhone’s Screen Time Feature to Take Back Your Productivity

By Jon Rumens on 08 November 2018

Discover how Apple helps you monitor and limit your smartphone usage for healthier phone habits and better productivity

Apple’s recently launched iOS 12 came with a much-welcomed feature that could be part of the answer to breaking free of digital distractions. The addition of Screen Time puts device owners in better control of how much time they spend on specific apps or on their device as a whole by providing data-driven insights into their usage.

Too much screen time doesn’t just pose a risk to children. Statistics show that the average adult spends upward of 10-11 hours per day in front of a screen. Equally alarming is that adults check their phones about every 10 minutes.

It’s easy to say there’s plenty of room for cutting back, but Apple’s Screen Time feature may be the boost iPhone users need to make it happen.

What Is Apple Screen Time?

Apple’s exclusive Screen Time provides users a simplified window into how they use their iOs devices. When activated, the app collects and aggregates data based on device usage, including how much time is spent using each app on the device and how often you’re checking your phone each day or week.

As long as you’re logged into your iCloud account, Screen Time will collect data from all of your devices and aggregate it in the Screen Time app. This means your results are a collective total from all the devices you’re logged into.

To access the feature, head to Settings, then scroll down to Screen Time and tap to open. Here you’ll see your current usage for the day (or week) and how it compares to your average. Clicking the graph will give you further insight into how you spend your time, including how often you receive app notifications, where the notifications come from, the number of times you pick up your phone, and when the most pickups occur.

The app offers multiple functions that can be tailored to each user’s preferences:

App Limits

Here you can manually set time limits for app categories to help you curb your digital cravings. For example, rather than setting individual limits for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you’d set a single limit for social media. Or you can set one limit for all categories. Users will receive a five-minute warning when time is about to expire. Time limits are reset each day until you manually change them within the app.


The Downtime feature allows users to schedule specific blocks of time away from their screen. Only the calling feature and the apps you allow will be accessible during Downtime. Right now, Downtime is limited to one block of time of your choosing (i.e., you can’t schedule two or more separate periods of Downtime per day).

Family Sharing

The Family Sharing feature grants you insight into other devices in your family if you are the Family Manager. Parents can check their children’s screen time usage, set App Limits and Downtime, and see how they’re spending time on their devices – all from the Family Manager’s own device.

If you’re not already set up in a family group, you can go to Set Up Screen Time for Family and follow the instructions.

Crafting a Screen Time Strategy with Apple’s New Features

The features in Apple’s Screen Time provide users a comprehensive look into their habits, even ones they may not have previously considered. These features offer insight into the times of day when usage is high and how often they look at or pick up their devices. Knowledge that can help to identify and close productivity gaps users may not have known existed.

Of course, data is useless unless users understand how to utilize it. Turning your insights into actions is critical in helping you find ways to better use your time and improve your digital habits:

Review App Data

Daily and weekly data are available through the Screen Time app. You should review this data often to gauge over time how and when you’re using your device so you can see where you can make improvements.

Set Goals

Think about the reasons why you want to limit device usage. Are your children spending too much time on social media and not enough time on homework? Are you glancing at your Twitter feed every hour at work? Could you potentially take on new clients if you could free up some time in your day?

Once you understand your current habits and motivations, you’re better positioned to set realistic goals that can limit your device usage.

It’s usually best to start with small goals that will help you progress toward your larger goal.

Be as specific as possible when setting your screen time goals. For example, you might reduce your social media app usage by 20% rather than cutting overall screen time. The more specific you can make your goal, the better you can gauge your results to see if you’re making a difference.

Leverage App Limits

Apple’s Screen Time features are powerful, so it makes sense to use them to help you reach your goals. Find out what apps are unnecessarily eating the most of your time and start limiting your access.

Set Downtime

Setting Downtime is the next best thing to locking your phone in a drawer, except with Downtime, you won’t miss out on any important calls. Consider setting your Downtime to cover your entire morning or after-lunch block of work so you can knock out important tasks with zero distraction.

Repeat and Refine

Remember, your limits are never set in stone. You can always tweak and refine if your attempts to limit app use aren’t working, so don’t be afraid to test this feature in multiple ways. Use your data to see how well you’re progressing and where you can make additional improvements.

Is Screen Time the Answer for Smarter Habits?

Screen Time has barely been active for a month, but its benefits are already becoming clear. One report relates that a user, testing the feature before its release, reduced her daily use by about 15 minutes, while her teenage daughter cut her screen time in half (about three hours per day) in just two weeks.

However, it’s important to realize that right now only Apple iOS users can benefit from it. Other platforms may soon follow suit with similar features, but in the meantime, there are other solutions device users can explore to curb their digital habits.

For example, FocusMe provides an easy, cost-effective solution to help you avoid digital distractions. Similar to Apple’s Screen Time feature, FocusMe allows you to block apps and set time limits to help you reduce unnecessary screen time and take back your productivity.

You can try FocusMe for free for 14 days and see how it helps put more time back into your day without the stress (or guilt) of manually monitoring your own usage.

Regardless of what platform you use, the help you may need to reduce your screen time is there – whether you use it to change your digital habits is entirely up to you.