How to stop yourself wasting time on Twitter and Facebook

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twitter bird screen time metaphor
This little birds is an easy metaphor for wasting time on Twitter.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Today’s tip uses iOS 12’s Screen Time feature to stop yourself from wasting your life on Twitter and/or Facebook (or any other app or website). Maybe you obsess over a golfing forum, or you have a Fortnite habit you just can’t shake.

If so, Screen Time can protect you from yourself. Let’s see how.

How to limit Twitter usage with Screen Time

Every app you use is buried somewhere in this Screen Time list.
Every app you use is buried somewhere in this list.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Screen Time is a new iOS 12-only feature that gathers together all kinds of tools. Parents can monitor what their kids are up to, and even see the websites they’ve visited. You can also use Screen Time to set limits on app usage on your own device.

Today, we’ll do this with Twitter, limiting the Tweetbot app to just 10 minutes a day. You can of course apply this to any app, including Facebook. You can also set limits for individual web pages, making this a very powerful tool indeed.

Set your Screen Time limit.
Set your limit.
Photo: Cult of Mac

If you’re using Screen Time limits on your own machine, you can override them at any time (or ask for an extension). This might make the whole exercise seem pointless, but in my experience, Screen Time alerts are enough to curb app use. We could also block access to Twitter in the browser, but to be honest, the experience of the full Twitter website is so awful that it provides its own deterrent.

How to set a limit for Tweetbot in Screen Time

To limit your Tweetbot use, head to Settings > Screen Time. Then tap All Devices at the top (or the name of your device if you only have one iPhone or iPad using Screen Time).

In Screen Time, there’s an option to Add Limits, but this only lets you block entire app categories. To limit an individual app, you must find that app somewhere in your Screen Time usage stats. It’s a pain, I know.

To find Tweetbot, or any other app you want to block, just open up the All Devices list and scroll until you find it. It may help to switch to the Last 7 Days view if you haven’t yet used the app today.

Then, tap the app. You’ll see this screen:

Tweetbot's Screen Time stats.
Tweetbot’s Screen Time stats.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Tap Add Limit, set the timer to whatever you like, and tap Add.

Your friendly Screen Time alert.
Your friendly Screen Time alert.
Photo: Cult of Mac

That’s it. Now, you have just 10 minutes of Tweetbot use allowed per day. You’ll get an alert five minutes before the limit kicks in. Once the limit is reached, the app icon will be grayed out on your home screen. And if you try to launch the app, you’ll see the Screen Time limit screen instead. You can always choose to extend the limit, or remove it for the day.

Synced

One neat feature: Screen Time syncs your limits between any devices signed in to your iCloud account. That means you can’t escape your limits by switching to your iPad, for example.

This is just a tiny part of Screen Time. But if you want to understand how this powerful iOS 12 feature can change your computing habits for the better, starting small is a good idea. Have fun!