- If your new year’s resolution was “spend less time on my phone,” it can already feel challenging to stick to it.
- Google has some built-in tools to help you relax and de-stress, or use less technology altogether.
- There are 16 hidden features inside Google’s most popular products to help you combat your tech addiction.
Now that the new year is here, many of us are trying to form new habits, like eating healthier and exercising more.
But if your resolution is to spend less time staring at screens or using your phone, it can be difficult.
How do we change years of habits in a few weeks?
Well, you don’t have to do it alone.
Most of us use at least one Google product regularly, whether that’s Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, or even an Android phone or a Pixel. Built into those tools are features to help you wind down and de-stress, or take a break from technology altogether.
So if you’re one of the many whose resolution was “spend less time on my phone,” here are some easy ways to stick to it, thanks to Google.
If you have an Android phone …
- If you’re an Android user – if you have a Samsung phone, LG, OnePlus, or virtually any smartphone that’s not an iPhone – there’s a digital well-being dashboard on your device (as long as it’s running Android 9 Pie). The dashboard will give you a picture of how you use each app on your phone daily – as in, how many times you unlock it, how many minutes you’ve spent staring at it, and even which apps are taking up the largest percentage of your time online.
- Once you figure out which apps you use way too much, you can use the app timer to limit how much time you spend on an app each day. When that limit is reached, your device will pause that app for the rest of the day.
- There’s also a wind-down feature in Android 9 Pie that will automatically switch on Do Not Disturb and fade your device’s screen to grayscale once it’s bedtime.
If you’re an iPhone user, don’t worry – iOS 12 includes a few similar features.
If you watch a lot of YouTube videos …
- If you spend a lot of time on YouTube, you know how easy it can be to get sucked in to watching video after video. But hidden inside YouTube’s mobile app is a time-watched profile, which lets you know how much time you spend inside the app along with a daily average. To find this feature, tap on your account inside the mobile app.
- The app also includes the ability to set goals for how much you want to watch in a given day. Once you set a goal, YouTube’s take a break reminder will pop up. It forces the video to pause at intervals, which you can set yourself. To turn this feature on, tap your account icon inside the mobile app.
- You can set quiet hours for the YouTube app as well, which will silence notifications from the app during your customisable quiet hours.
If you own a Google Home …
- With Google Home, you can set up bedtime routines to help you wind down at night. If you say a voice command like “Good night” or “Bedtime,” Google Assistant will run your routine, which could include anything from turning off the lights to playing sleep sounds as you fall asleep.
- You can also say, “Hey, Google, turn on Do Not Disturb,” which will silence all notifications on both your Google Home devices and your Pixel phone.
- The downtime feature on Google Home also lets you set up a customisable schedule for your device that allows you to take regular breaks.
If you use a Pixel 3 …
- Google’s Pixel phones have all the same “mindfulness” features as other Android devices running Android 9 Pie. But there’s one Pixel-specific feature to help you spend less time on your device: If you turn your Pixel 3 over on the table, it automatically enters Do Not Disturb.
If you have Google WiFi …
- If you’re a Google WiFi user, you can schedule internet breaks in your home. Or you can pause the WiFi only during certain times, like dinnertime or bedtime, to give your whole family a break.
If you use Google services like Gmail, Chrome, Google Photos, or Google Calendar …
- For Chrome users, Google offers a Mindful BreakChrome extension, which will give you mindfulness tips and guide you through a short breathing exercise. The extension will also let you set reminders to take a mental break, or you can go full-screen to stay focused on your task.
- For Gmail users, you can turn on high-priority notifications. That will limit the number of email alerts you’ll receive and allow you to be notified only when it’s important.
- Gmail users can also use Smart Compose and Smart Reply to spend less time responding to emails. The Smart Compose feature will automatically suggest words and phrases as you write, while the Smart Reply feature will suggest quick responses to messages you receive.
- For Google Photos users, the app will send automatic suggestions of photos to archive so you don’t have to manually delete images like screenshots or receipts.
- For Google Calendar users, there’s the option to create goals inside the app. You can set how much time you want to spend on a goal each week, and then Google Calendar will automatically schedule time for you to work on the goal.