It’s that time of year where, amid schoolwork, stress, and candy-themed holidays, New Year’s resolutions tend to get left in the dust. But you don’t need to relegate cleaning up your life to January, when, after all, distractions are always a problem. Keeping life in order, both on- and off-line, can be overwhelming; not to mention, maintaining both aspects can keep you from vital tasks such as studying and self-care. The Advocate has some tips on how to keep your social media and technology habits clutter-free.

One of the main problems that students have with social media is preventing it from being a distraction when they should normally be studying or doing homework. In order to keep her phone from distracting her, Advocate Co-Editor-in-Chief Olivia sets a personal limit on how much time she gets on social media a day, creating a “phone bedtime” after which she doesn’t allow herself to use her phone. Although this can be a difficult test of self-control, it is often much easier when your phone is out of sight, and, hopefully, out of mind. Advocate Co-Editor-in-Chief Lillie likes to put her phone in another room, where she’s less likely to pick it up and scroll mindlessly while she’s working on homework, while Opinion Editor Stella keeps herself from distraction by not charging her phone after it dies and waiting until the next morning to use her phone again.

There are other benefits to keeping your phone away during the later hours: studies have shown that the blue light emitted by phones and other devices can disturb the vital balance of hormones needed to fall asleep and enter the deep-sleep REM cycle. In order to prevent your phone from keeping you awake and wasting valuable sleep time, School and Local Editor Eliana doesn’t go on her phone right before bed. Keeping your phone in your room while you sleep is also shown to subconsciously affect sleep patterns, even when it is on silent, as it causes you to sleep more fitfully. Many studies suggest that placing your phone in another room while you sleep can make it easier to get higher-quality sleep. (If you use your phone as an alarm, consider investing in a cheap alarm clock, sold at many stores.)

While these tips can help reduce screen time before bed, it might benefit others to take a social media fast and delete the apps from their phones. Oftentimes, even opening up Instagram or Twitter to check notifications can lead to hours of endless scrolling. To prevent this, Arts and Leisure Editor Sarah deletes social media apps off of her phone and instead uses the online counterparts, which contain most of the same features but, since they aren’t constantly visible, result in less distraction. Those who would prefer not to delete apps can instead track their app usage with apps such as Moment, which calculates the time you spend on your phone and on each app. Being mindful of your habits, after all, is the first step to change.

Although social media can be a fun and easy way to communicate with friends, it can also cause unneeded stress and distractions to maintain them. Taking several easy precautions can keep your life less cluttered and improve quality of life, especially schoolwork. And taking time off for your health can be just as enjoyable—there’s no reason to feel pressured to participate in social media, and keeping yourself happy and healthy is just as vital to your life as communicating with friends. Always remember to put your own needs and priorities first!

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