How to be Productive Without Minimizing Your Screen Time


Mohit Kamboj

Highly customizable blocking apps are the smart way to fight back against digital distraction

Many people might argue that the headline of this article is impossible. Can you be more productive without minimizing or reducing screen time? Well, it depends on how you view the question. Most of the time you will find expert answers telling you that minimizing screen time is the most important aspect in encouraging productivity. But we beg to differ. It’s not so much the screen time, but rather what you are viewing on the screen.

If you spend 4 hours online each day checking out social media, naturally this will lead you to become less productive at work or school. But if you were able to find the discipline to keep that screen time devoted to only what you need for work or study reasons, that screen time is arguably helping you be more productive. So how can a person stick to ‘productive screen time’? Well, one thing that won’t work is willpower.

Even the most fanatically disciplined of us have trouble in the digital world because the distractions come from everywhere. And so many of them seem valid. You got an email… so you need to answer it. You notice an article related to your industry… so you need to read it. But do you really need to answer that email right now or read that article at this moment? The answer is probably no. This is why literally tens of millions of people seeking to improve their work productivity are downloading what are called ‘blocking apps.’

A blocking app helps you set parameters on your screen time by narrowing what you are allowed to see – and during which times. If you have a major report to write, for example, you may not want to be disturbed by email so you could block it. Social media is certainly something that isn’t going to aid any student during study time, so with a blocking app when you are studying you simply block out Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or whatever other platform is distracting. The app is free and can sync across all of your devices, so you can’t run off for a break and cheat by using your smartphone instead of your laptop.

Of course, however, you set the parameters. You decide to block things at certain times and this decision to take control of your time is liberating. It also helps you get more done so at the end of the day you have additional time to go and catch up with friends on social media or read various articles of interest or answer some non-work-related emails. A blocking app is an idea that helps us structure our work or study day and ‘nudge’ us back to productivity.

And the app also has scheduling assistance features as well as timers for people who work better in bursts. Pandora’s box has long been opened and it’s not going to be shut anytime soon. Screens are everywhere from a smartwatch to a smart TV… and everything in between. The opportunities to become distracted are increasing exponentially alongside technology and it’s up to each one of us to individually determine what areas of the digital world are our Achilles Heels, so to speak.

A blocking app is designed to strengthen your resolve to avoid the areas that you know are pitfalls. It’s different for everyone. For one person it may be sports teams, and they waste 2 hours every morning at the office looking over scores from the day before. For one person, it’s social media, for the next, it’s political blogs and for another, it’s news magazines. For others, it’s hours of fun, but non-productive video watching on YouTube.

A blocking app requires you to sit down and have a little conversation with yourself. It requires an honest self-evaluation to determine what digital distractions are tripping you up and then taking positive action to set up your day so that those trip-ups are blocked. It’s not like you are cutting yourself off from the world, you’re simply deciding that from 8:00 a.m. until noon, for example, you will not be distracted by whatever temptation often eats up your mornings.

There is a case to be made for reducing screen time in general as our eyes and brains need rest. But the idea that simply blocking out every tech device and becoming some sort of 21st-century version of a hermit is going to solve problems and make you more productive is an unlikely proposition. A much better plan is to target the specific areas that are problematic and block them.

The app also blocks adult content and can be perfect for someone with a specific need to avoid vice, such as online gambling. Getting a blocking app onto the phones of young people early is highly recommended as it can help them learn that everything is a choice – you are not forced to be distracted, you are choosing to be distracted. – You have the power to fight back!