How to Cut Down Your Screen Time but Still Get Stuff Done


Worried about smartphone addiction after seeing your latest screen-time statistics? A certain amount of phone use is often necessary these days, but repetitive tasks pile on the minutes. Google’s Assistant Routines and Apple’s Shortcuts app are two free options that may help — by condensing several actions into one tap or command. Here’s how to get started.

Say you’d like to ease into the day with a personalized audio briefing — for example, the day’s weather forecast, commuting conditions, your meeting schedule, and a news summary or podcast. You’d prefer to listen while getting ready for work, but you do not want to keep interacting with the phone. Here’s where the Google Assistant

for Android or iOS comes in, with an easy way to do all that in a Routine.

Download the app if you don’t have it, then open the Google Assistant settings by voice (“Hey, Google, open Assistant Routines”) or by tapping the Settings icon; choose Apps, then Assistant and then Routines. The Routines screen offers several suggestions for different scenarios, like a routine for those work-from-home days, a routine that plays music and adjusts your smart thermostat when you arrive home and a routine for winding down at bedtime. Tap “Set up routine” on the one you want to use, and edit its actions to your liking.

You can design your own routine from scratch, too. Tap the + button at the top of the screen, and then, from the menu, select the actions you want to include. Pick a starter phrase or condition that will activate the routine, and follow the rest of the onscreen instructions.

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