Typically I always have had a side project that I work on before or after hours. However, with Covid-19 and everything else going on in the world I decided that rather than add another stressor to take a step back and focus on my mental and physical health.

To improve my physical fitness, I’ve been working on developing a regular running habit again. To improve my mental health, I’ve been focusing getting enough sleep.

In both of those aims my Apple Watch and iPhone have been a key tool in keeping me on track.

My watch reminds me to stand up and tracks my runs. I’ve also started a running club at work and while we can’t run together, we do share our runs on Slack and set running goals each month.

For sleep health, I’ve setup Downtime everyday from 8:30pm – 5:30am, as part of my Screentime settings. This disables all apps on my phone, except phone calls and apps that I specifically allow. The only apps that I allow are Runkeeper, Music, and Overcast, as I use them when running.

I didn’t think Downtime would have much of an effect at first, but I discovered that it prevents me from doom scrolling while in bed. And it turns out that limiting your intake of doom directly before and after you wake up, does wonders for your mental health.

The other setting that helps drastically is Bedtime. I aim for 8 hours of sleep a night and have set bedtime from 8:30pm – 4:30am, everyday. Notice that Downtime doesn’t end until an hour after I’ve woken up – giving me at least an hour of time with “just me”.

45 minutes before bedtime I get a notification that it’s time to start winding down and notifications disappear, my phone dims and I get a nice banner that say things like “Good evening. It’s time to start winding down.”. Removing the notifications and making such a simple display makes it much less tempting to pick up my phone.

When I first heard about these features I thought they sounded a bit gimmicky and they wouldn’t work. But they do. In the past two weeks I’ve averaged 8:29 hours in bed at 7:36 hours asleep each night. And each morning I feel refreshed.

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping this year, give yourself a break and try Downtime and Screentime.

  1. I’ve similarly tried to focus on my mental and physical health. To exercise, I was going out on daily walks in the summer. Now that it’s getting cooler, I hope to resume my exercise bike routine. I find that exercising on the exercise bike while listening to music helps me get away from the rest of my day. I become more focused on the present moment because all that seems to matter is finishing my workout.

    I haven’t heard about Downtime. I’ve just toggled the feature and I’ll see how it works. I am guilty of sometimes checking Slack before I go to bed and I end up getting caught up in discussions. I appreciate the tip!

    • Exactly – being able to just get out and focus on the moment does wonders. I’ll be interested to see if you find the same benefits from Downtime as I’ve been finding.

      • My use of Downtime did not go as well as I had hoped. I did not realize that Downtime applied to all of my devices. When I went to log on for work on Friday, everything was locked because I had enabled Downtime. It took me about five minutes to disable Downtime so I could get to work 🙂

        I like the idea and maybe I’ll come back to it. I need more time to evaluate its use. I think it matters more on my phone which is where I’m more likely to procrastinate.

        • Ah – yeah. In that case you need to adjust your Downtime settings to not overlap with your working hours and or approve the apps/sites that you need to work to run during Downtime (probably defeats the purpose). I ran into a similar issue my first day after enabling Downtime, but I couldn’t run Runkeeper / Music on my Watch. Doh!

          • Absolutely. Part of me doesn’t want to enable downtime because sometimes I get good ideas and I like to note them down before I go to bed or do a bit of research to solidify my thoughts a bit. Nonetheless, downtime looks like an exciting feature.

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