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I Swapped My Phone Screen Time for Reading Time

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Emily Martin

Contributing Editor

Emily has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, MS, and she has an MFA in Creative Writing from GCSU in Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O’Connor. She spends her free time reading, watching horror movies and musicals, cuddling cats, Instagramming pictures of cats, and blogging/podcasting about books with the ladies over at #BookSquadGoals ( She can be reached at

Are you a phone addict? Do you find yourself scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, liking pictures of cats you’ve never met, only to remember you were in the middle of a conversation? And now you have no idea what the person who’s talking to you is talking about? Have you ever sat down to read, and then right when you settle in, you instead pick up your phone to scroll through some memes real quick? And then two hours later you realize you’ve read, like, one page of your book?

Yeah, well, that’s me.

So when I saw that The Book Leo challenged herself to spend a week away from her phone so she could get more reading done, it seemed like the perfect challenge for me.

The rules seemed simple enough. All I had to do was stop picking up my phone and use those hours of time to read instead. I decided to start my challenge on a Saturday, because Saturday is generally less structured, which meant plenty of time to read. I set my phone to block all apps from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. I tracked my page count using Bookly. And yes, audiobooks definitely counted as well.

So how did I do? Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of how my 7-day challenge went.

Saturday, Day 1

All's Well book cover

When I looked at my breakdown of screen time per day, according to my phone, on average, I’m spending about 6 hours per day looking at my phone. That seemed like a lot. Would this actually translate to six full hours of reading if I tried to cut out my screen time completely? I was skeptical. But here goes nothing, right?

On the first day, I started reading All’s Well by Mona Awad and You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat. The former was an audiobook, and the latter was a real-life book. I tried to listen to the audiobook whenever I had a spare moment: while I was driving, while I was getting ready, while I was doing work on my computer. I usually try to do this anyway, but this time I tried to make a conscious effort to use audiobooks to fill up any spare time I had versus watching YouTube videos.

Speaking of YouTube videos, I normally watch YouTube videos to help me fall asleep if I’m taking a nap in the middle of the day. Instead, I got in bed and read my book. Ultimately, I never ended up falling asleep. I just kept reading. Score one for being well-read, zero for being well-rested.

This evening, I had dinner with my friend for her birthday. We sat outside and had to access the menus using QR codes. Of course, I couldn’t use the camera on my phone, so I had to look at the menu on my husband’s phone. On the flip side, I didn’t look at my phone during dinner, which I have to confess is something I’m notoriously bad about doing.

Sunday, Day 2

I usually get up pretty early, so since my screen time limitations didn’t kick in until 8 a.m., I had a little bit of time in the morning where I was able to check in on Instagram to see how all of my favorite cats were doing. I did, however, read my book with my morning coffee rather than watching TV. Which was pretty huge for me, considering there’s a new season of The Circle on Netflix right now.

I ended up going to bed after 10 p.m., so my apps were fully available to me. As a result, I definitely browsed my apps rather than reading my book before I went to bed. I have zero self-control.

Monday, Day 3

I have to admit something. I cheated a little bit today. There’s a thing you can bypass on your phone to allow yourself access to apps, and I really, really wanted to watch something on YouTube, so I told my phone to give me access for the day. Also, because I was working from home and had full access to my laptop, I checked out my Instagram feed on my laptop and responded to messages. Oops?

Still, I managed to finish All’s Well today. And I spent some quality time with a friend, so although I wasn’t reading with all of my free time, I did get a fair amount of reading done. And more importantly, I chatted with my friend without looking at my phone the whole time!

Tuesday, Day 4

Cover of The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Today, I started listening to The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazlewood. This is definitely AU (alternate universe) Reylo fanfic, right? I mean, look at the cover. I’m not mad about it. I’m just saying.

Anyway, once again, I spent the morning reading You Exist Too Much instead of watching TV. The Circle will just have to wait.

Next, I taught a barre class, and afterwards, I was talking to one of my clients about aerial yoga. She’d never taken aerial yoga, and she didn’t know what it looked like. So I said, “Oh, let me show you the pictures of my friends and me taking aerial yoga. It’s so fun.”

Nope. I couldn’t access my pictures. And this time, I didn’t cheat and bypass the system. I just told my client I’d have to show her another time. Or she could just Google “aerial yoga” herself to see what it looked like. After all, she had a phone with access to apps. I never realized how good I had it until it was gone.

Wednesday, Day 5

I’m noticing that I’m getting through my audiobooks a lot faster than I’m getting through my normal books. A lot of times when I’m working at home, I’ll watch TV or YouTube videos, but since I’m replacing all of that with audiobooks, I’m zipping through these audiobooks.

Thursday, Day 6

Mercury Boys book cover

Speaking of zipping through audiobooks, today I finished The Love Hypothesis and started two more audiobooks: Mercury Boys by Chandra Prasad and Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes by Phoebe Robinson. I listened to a little bit of Mercury Boys and then decided I needed something funny and nonfiction to switch things up, especially because I spent several hours listening to audiobooks today. Both were great, and for this longer listening period, it was fun to go back and forth between the two.

This was the second to last day of the challenge, and I definitely cheated a little bit. I watched a YouTube video to fall asleep at night instead of reading my book.

Friday, Day 7

On the last day of the challenge, I finally finished You Exist Too Much. I’m a little bummed it still took me a whole week to read this book. It was so short, and I really enjoyed it. When I sat down to read it, I didn’t want to put it down. Heck, I even missed out on a nap so I could read this book. Still, even with cutting down on screen time, I noticed that I just didn’t have much free time during this week to sit down and dedicate all my time and attention to reading a book. Audiobooks were easier because I could listen to them while doing other things.

On this last day of the challenge, I tried to look back on the week and reflect on what I’d accomplished by trying this out. How much of my reading life changed? How much stayed the same?

Looking at my average pages read per day, I ended up landing about where I do on a good day of reading: 150 pages/day. So reading an average of 150 pages per day for me was really good, since that’s normally on the high end for me. I only finished three books completely, but I read five total, so that was still good. Not earth-shatteringly different from what I normally read in a week, but still on the higher end of how much I read in an average week.

As far as how many hours I read per day, I was still nowhere near six hours per day. It was an average of around two hours per day. Again, still good, but not wildly different from what a normal good day looks like for me. I just got to have seven good days in a row.

I think the biggest difference for me was the quality time I was able to spend with friends. Normally, when I’m with friends, I’m still looking down at my phone, checking Instagram, texting people, and looking at my emails. Usually, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I blame anxiety. You know how fidget spinners were a really big deal for people with anxiety for, like, four months in 2017? Well, I think my iPhone is sometimes like a really expensive fidget spinner. By getting rid of my anxiety toy, I was able to focus on things that mattered more, like the people (and books) that were right in front of me.

The main thing I wish I’d done better? I know audiobooks count as reading just as much as regular books do. Nonetheless, I still wish I had been able to make more time to sit down and read. I know not everyone listens to audiobooks like this, but normally when I’m listening to an audiobook, I’m also doing other things. When I sit down to read a book, I’m just focusing in on that book. I would like to find more time to read without doing anything else. Maybe that’s a challenge for next time.

Would you ever switch out your screen time for reading time? Here are some other people who have taken the challenge: MelReads, Jack Edwards, Spoopyhol, and Hailey Danielle. Some of my favorite BookTubers have not yet taken this challenge. Bowties & Books, Pages of Hayley, Booked and Busy, Jess Owens, With Cindy — I’d love to see these creators try it. Now I challenge you to try it too!