How I reduced my screen time in 4 days

Confession: I was a little scared of the idea of owning a Smart Watch. After all my Screen Time was already scarily high… so adding more technology to my life seemed irresponsible, heck dangerous, even given my addiction to scrolling through Instagram/emailing late at night whilst in bed.

I was fortunate enough to receive a loan of the new Apple Watch Series 5 from Apple for the purposes of research, but as swapped my analogue Cartier for the sleek digital device I could feel my nerves peak. Surely being more connected to the internet was going to mean more anxiety, less sleep and an even higher number on my weekly Screen Time report.

What I didn’t expect was how owning a smart watch would actually reduce the hours per day that I spent using my phone.

Apart from the obvious features that promote exercise – like the activity tracker to monitor steps and heart rate, there were other factors that subtly encouraged me to be more ‘present’. From regular reminders from the Breathe app to take a moment to centre myself, to the little heads up that it’s time to stand up at least once every hour, to the alerts every night that it was time to ready myself for bed, there were a slew of features that prompted me to make seemingly small lifestyle changes – but when combined they had a big impact on my overall health and wellbeing. I was walking more, standing more, taking at least two mini-meditations a day, and getting to bed much earlier.

However, the largest change was the ‘filter’ effect. I no longer took my phone with me everywhere out of fear of missing out on an important call or message – meaning I was less tempted to pick it up and aimless scroll through apps or check my inbox unprompted. My screen time has dropped from an average of two hours a day (shocking, I know) to 47 minutes.

For those familiar with smart watches – and especially with the previous models of the Apple Watch – this may come as no surprise. But to me, it’s been huge. So as it pains me to say this, my Cartier may be languishing on the bedside table to some time to come.

There are a number of new features on the Apple Watch Series 5 that weren’t available in prior models, but are great to note if you’re considering investing in a smart watch of any kind.

Always-On Retina display: In short, this means the display is always on, but dims to a subtle brightness when you’re not actively using the watch. This is rather handy when you’re mid-spin class but don’t want to seem ood/rude by regularly tapping your wrist to check your heart rate (or the number of minutes left of class!).

Built-in compass: I didn’t do any back-country skiing in the last four days (unfortunately), but I can imagine this feature is mighty handy when you want to track your incline, elevation, latitude and longitude when going off off-piste. Also, it’s quite fun for tracking the night sky, if that’s your jam.

Cycle Tracking: The new watchOS 6 upgrade means you can log info about your cycle for the new Cycle Tracking app, and keeping track of your cycle so you know when your next period is due or fertility window starts. Invaluable stuff to keep close at hand, literally.

Noise app: If you work in a noisy environment, this feature could be handy to flag when decibel measures get to unsafe levels. My comfortable office desk rarely gets louder than co-workers singing happy birthday, so I probably won’t need this on a daily basis – but it’s good to know it’s there.

The extended battery to 18-hours will power through a whole day, although it does mean I need to plug it in every night. Sadly Australia won’t be getting the heart monitoring app, ECG, which is available in the Series 5 model in other countries, but let’s hope that changes soon.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is available for sale in Australia, starting from $649, via Apple. If you are looking to upgrade your existing Apple Watch, you could lower the cost of a new watch by trading in your old one. If your device isn’t eligible for credit, Apple will recycle it for free.