By ALLIE MYSZKA

Technology is a wonderful thing and helps all of us in the modern world to save time and work more efficiently. But sometimes, we get a little too caught up in our phones, and we end up giving them more time than we should. This has the opposite effect, and can not only slow us down, but also make us miss out on more important things happening around us.

Maybe you’ve read the articles encouraging you to “put your phone away and spend time with the kids,” or you’ve been feeling like you’re chained to your email and texts lately. Either way, could it be time to take a deeper look at your cell phone habits?

Tracking Your Usage

Have you ever actually tallied up the hours that you spend on your phone during a typical week? You might be surprised! It’s all too easy to check it for a few minutes at a time, and before you know it, you’ve spent hours on your phone each day without even realizing it.

The first step to stepping back from your phone is to track your actual usage (rather than going off of your own estimate). Download an app like Moment (click here to learn more about Moment) to see exactly how much time you spend on your phone, how many times you pick it up to check it throughout the course of the day, and which apps you spend the most time using.

Once you know how many hours a day go toward your phone and apps, ask yourself if that’s how you truly want to spend your time. Would you rather play that game for a total of an hour, or use that hour of your day to work on a passion project? Could that two hours spent refreshing your email be better spent calling friends for quick catch-up times, or getting small tasks done around the house?

Make some changes based on your reflections. Personally, tracking my phone usage revealed that I was spending at least two hours a day checking social media, and that ultimately led me to remove social media apps from my phone. I’d much rather use those two hours to catch up with a friend or spend quality time with my family.

Taking Back Your Time

You’ve looked at your usage. You’ve decided how you’d rather spend your time. Now, how do you take back that time you previously spent on your phone?

Well, a good start might be to do what I did—delete the apps that you tended to open mindlessly and spend significant time using. Even if it’s just for a few weeks, getting rid of the temptation to mindlessly open those apps can change your habits.

Even better still, leave your phone behind (or at least far out of reach) throughout the day. For many of us, the impulse to pick it up and check it is so strong that we do it hundreds of times a day without realizing it. At work, rather than keeping your phone right next to your computer, keep it buried deep in your briefcase or bag, or leave it in your car. Only get it out at predetermined times of day to check it. When you arrive at home, consider putting your phone in one spot (maybe in a good location to charge it), and leaving it there until you wake up again the next morning. When you’re eating dinner, leave it upstairs in your bedroom instead of in your pocket or on the kitchen counter where you’ll hear it vibrate during mealtime. When your phone isn’t always accessible, you may find you have more time and mental space for reading, hobbies, or longer and more meaningful conversations at home.

If you want to unplug for even longer, leave your phone at home while you go for a walk with a friend or run an errand or two. Hopefully, you’ll realize that it is possible to disconnect from time to time, and in time, you may not even miss having your cell phone glued to your hand all the time.

Just like with any habit change, stepping back from your cell phone will take time. But if that change allows you to appreciate life and be more present with your loved ones throughout your everyday life, then breaking your chains from your