Best Practices
April 2, 2023

How to Hack Screen Time

Technology has become increasingly pervasive in our lives. Here's how to hack screen time to reduce excessive screen time.
Anton Balitskyi
Anton Balitskyi
Lead Designer

How to Hack Screen Time

Technology has become increasingly pervasive in our lives. Here's how to hack screen time to reduce excessive screen time.

Created by:

Anton Balitskyi


April 2, 2023



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Technology has become increasingly pervasive in our lives, and it’s often hard to draw the line between unproductive and healthy use. While it’s undeniably convenient to always have access to our favorite apps and websites, excessive screen time can be detrimental to our physical and mental health.

In this article, we’ll explore how the MECE approach to screen time management can help you better understand your habits, identify patterns in your usage, and come up with strategies on how to hack screen time to further reduce excessive screen time.

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The MECE Approach to Screen Time Management

The MECE framework (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive) is a strategy used in problem-solving that encourages breaking down and organizing information into distinct categories. The idea is that each subcategory should be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive in order to maximize efficiency and comprehensiveness.

When it comes to screen time management, the MECE framework can help us break our habits and usage down into distinct categories, helping us identify patterns in our behavior and come up with strategies for reducing our screen time.

Understanding Your Screen Time Habits

The first step in applying the MECE framework to screen time is to conduct a thorough audit of your usage. Make a list of all the apps, websites, and activities you engage in when using screens. From there, start categorizing each type of digital activity into distinct categories, thinking about the purpose or goal each activity serves.

Once you’ve identified the different types of activities you engage in while using screens, start reflecting on how your screen time usage impacts your everyday life. Do certain activities make you feel more productive and energized? Are there other activities that drain your energy and leave you feeling unmotivated?

By understanding your habits, you can start to identify patterns in your screen time usage, helping you determine which activities are beneficial and which ones have a negative impact on your well-being.

Strategies for Reducing Screen Time

Once you’ve identified patterns in your screen time usage, it’s time to come up with strategies for reducing your overall usage.

Mental and Emotional Strategies

Utilize these five mental and emotional strategies to help you make mindful decisions around your screen time usage:

1. Cultivate Awareness and Mindfulness

Cultivate awareness and mindfulness by being aware of how you feel during and after

Mental strategies involve cultivating awareness and mindfulness around your screen time habits. Take some time to observe how you use screens and reflect on how it makes you feel. This will help you develop an understanding of how and why you use screens, which can be a powerful tool for self-regulation.

2. Practice Self-Control and Discipline

Practice self-control and discipline by setting limits around your usage. Set a timer or create an alarm to remind yourself of your usage limits. Make sure to stick to these boundaries and resist the urge to engage in excessive screen time.

Also, make sure to take regular breaks away from your devices. Scheduling time for non-screen activities can help you better manage your screen time.

3. Develop Alternative Coping Mechanisms

Develop alternative coping mechanisms to replace screen time. When you feel the urge to turn to screens, find something else to do instead. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, listen to music, or read a book –anything that helps you stay away from screens and engage in more productive and enjoyable activities.

4. Avoid Triggers

Avoid triggers that lead to screen time usage. Unsubscribe from email newsletters, block or even delete apps off your device, or put a screen time lock on your device during certain times of the day. Knowing what triggers your screen time will help you better manage it.

5. Take a Digital Detox

Finally, take regular breaks from screens. This can be as simple as a weekend detox or taking a day off every week. During this time, practice being mindful and focus on the present moment. This will help you stay in touch with your body and mind and also give you an opportunity to engage in activities that don't involve screens.

Physical Strategies

In addition to the mental and emotional strategies outlined above, here are a few practical physical strategies to help you reduce screen time:

1. Change Your Environment

Change your environment and make it more conducive for staying away from screens. Create a no-screen zone in your home and take the devices out of that area. For example, you could designate a specific room in your house or apartment as a no-screen area. Or you can stop using phones at certain hours such as during bedtime or dinner time.

2. Set Up Physical Barriers

Set up physical boundaries to help you resist the temptation to use screens when you are feeling tempted. For example, if you are using a laptop or tablet, place it in an area that is not easily accessible to you. This will act as a physical barrier and help you resist the urge to use it.

3. Incorporate Physical Activity into Your Routine

Integrate physical activity into your routine to help you stay away from screens. Exercise can be a great way to keep your mind and body active and reduce the temptation to engage in excessive screen time.

4. Turn Your iPhone Into A Dumb Phone

The best comprehensive strategy is to convert your powerful smartphone into a dumb phone. Doing that your phone can only do simple tasks such as taking calls and receiving and sending messages.

Technological Solutions for Screen Time Management

In addition to the strategies outlined above, there are a few technological tactics to hack screen time that can help you better manage your iPhone screen time.

1. Use A Screen Time Management App

Opal is the #1 screen time management app that can help you better monitor and manage your screen time. With its many innovative features, it allows you to set limits, block specific websites or apps, and get reports on your focus level.

Opal empowers you to take control of your digital life and provides you with the tools to manage it responsibly. Here's how you can use Opal:

  1. Download Opal from the App Store and sync the Chrome extension;
  2. Create an App Group to block specific social media sites, like YouTube;
  3. Start a session!

And done!

2. To Stop Sending Messages Through Siri

You can prevent anyone from being able to send messages through your personal assistant, Siri. To do so:

Step 1: Open the settings app and tap on "Screen Time"

Step 2: Tap “Content & Privacy Restrictions”

Step 3: Go to “Allowed Apps”

Step 4: Turn Off Siri & Dictation

3. Modify the Device Time to Overcome App Restrictions

Sometimes, to prevent yourself (or your kids) from changing the time that allows them to use apps at certain times. If you want to use an app for longer, changing the date and time is an easy out. However, we don't recommend it.

To prevent this from happening, you can turn off the date and time setting within your device's screen time settings. That way, it won't be so easy to change the time and gain access to apps.

Step 1. Go to Settings

Step 2: Select "General" then "Data & Time," and enable "Set Automatically."

Step 3: Go back to Settings, then tap "Screen Time"

Step 4: Then select "Content & Privacy Restrictions" and then "Location Services."

Step 5. Tap "System Services" and turn off the "Setting Time Zone" option.

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4. Watch YouTube Videos via the Message App

Did you know that you can watch YouTube videos without having to leave the Messages app? However, we are trying to prevent this as one video will lead to another and, before you know it, hours have gone by.

In addition to blocking YouTube, you can take it one step forward:

Step 1: Go to settings

Step 2: Tap "Screen Time" then "Content & Privacy Restrictions"

Step 3: Then select "Content Restrictions" and "Web Content" 

Step 4: Select "Limit Adult" on the new page. Then, choose "Add Website" beneath the NEVER ALLOW section and include YouTube URL in the designated URL box.


Reducing screen time can be a daunting task, but with the right strategies and technological solutions, it doesn't have to be. By incorporating these mental and emotional strategies and physical strategies, you can take a holistic approach to reduce screen time.

Also, by using apps like Opal to manage your digital life more responsibly - you will be able to stay away from screens for longer periods of time. Ultimately these tips should help you reduce your overall screen time while still being able to enjoy all that technology has to offer in moderation.

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