Focus your mind with Screentime Genie

Why is it that the closer it gets to exams, the more time we tend to waste online?

If you find yourself watching random videos when you need to be studying, you’re not alone.

This behaviour is most likely due to the fact that you’re feeling stressed and tired.

When you’re freaking out about everything you need to do to prepare for exams, this rapidly depletes your willpower and energy. This is why you’re more likely to give into temptations and distractions.

What can you do about this dilemma?

Obviously, you need to get some rest (and you won’t get that sitting in front of a screen for hours on end).

But you also need tools and techniques to help you stay focused and create a buffer between you and the things that are likely to derail you and hijack your attention.

I recommend checking out Stanford university’s clever website Screentime Genie.

Screentime Genie is a big collection of screen time reduction strategies. But you won’t be left feeling overwhelmed by these tools and techniques. Here’s how it works . . .

You answer a few basic questions about the tech habits you want help with (this takes less than a minute to do). The Screentime Genie then presents you with a tailored selection of techniques to explore.

For example, let’s say you want help in the following areas:

1) Social media – I waste time on social media
2) Distractions – I get distracted while working
3) YouTube – I waste too much time watching YouTube

After answering questions about the specific platforms you use as well as your motivation levels to change (low, medium, or high), Screentime Genie pulls up from its collection the most appropriate techniques to match your current situation and motivation levels.

It recommends that you just select 2 or 3 strategies to begin with.

Professor BJ Fogg says that there are over 150 different strategies to cut down on screen use on the backend of this website. But you’ll only ever be presented with a small selection of strategies.

I think the decision to present only a few strategies at a time is smart. Imagine being presented with a list of 150+ different strategies all at once. Kind of overwhelming, right?

But when you’re only presented with a handful of strategies, you’re more likely to select one or two and actually do something. And doing something is always better than doing nothing!

How Screentime Genie could be improved

My only criticism of Screentime Genie is that some of the suggestions are a little tame and don’t go far enough. For example, there is a suggestion to delete social media from your phone and only have it on your computer. But I couldn’t see any suggestion to delete your social media accounts.

My guess is that the creators of Screentime Genie probably think the idea of deleting all your social media accounts is just way too extreme to put out there. But it’s not really that extreme when you think about it.

Back in 2017, Former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook Chamath Palihapitiya stated in a speech at the Stanford Graduate Business School that he no longer used social media (at the time he said he had posted less than 10 times in seven years). He said:

“If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you. If you push back on it, you have a chance to control it and reign it in. And it is a point in time when people need to hard break from some of these tools, and the things that you rely on.

The short-term dopamine driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth . . . it is eroding the core foundations of how people behave, by and between each other. And I don’t have a good solution. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years.”

I also haven’t used these tools (i.e., social media) for nearly 2 years now. I can tell you this is the simplest solution to dramatically cutting back on your screen time. And it’s one worth seriously considering.

For many years, I experimented with using lots of different plugins, Internet blocker apps, and programs to help reduce my time online (particularly on social media). These tools stopped me from getting completely screen sucked and allowed me to focus on pursuing my goals. But it took time to research, use, and manage all of these tools (and that was time with my eyes glued to a screen).

For some strange reason, it never occurred to me to just delete all my social media accounts. The penny only dropped when I read Jaron Lanier’s book 10 Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Lanier states:

“To free yourself, to be more authentic, to be less addicted, to be less manipulated, to be less paranoid . . . for all those marvellous reasons, delete your accounts.”

So, I hit delete.

This simple act gave me hours of my life back. It helped me to reclaim my brain. Life became simpler, too.

For this reason, I believe Screentime Genie could go further by including Jaron Lanier’s suggestion to “detach from the behaviour-modification empires [social media] for a while.” And he’s not talking about a 2-3 day digital detox like Screentime Genie suggests. Lanier is telling you to detach for at least 6 months.

But even if you do decide to delete social media from your life, this doesn’t mean you’re rejecting the Internet and all screens. You’ll still find yourself looking at and/or touching a screen hundreds of times per day (e.g., watching shows, reading the news, responding to text messages, and checking your email). Screentime Genie can help you in these other areas.

To sum up

Overall, Screentime Genie is a fabulous free resource that can assist you to cultivate a healthier relationship with technology. It provides an extensive range of strategies to reduce your screen time and be more mindful and present. So, why not give Screentime Genie a shot?

See for yourself if this little web Genie can make some of your screen time wishes come true.