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How to spend your free time without screens

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Okay, so you’re trying to reduce screen time. But what do you do when not on a screen? Millennials and older people will have had the benefit of having experienced not being on screens growing up. Younger people may never have even been alive during a time where you are not spending a significant of your awake time on a screen.

So what do you do when not on a screen? Here are some examples.

Hang out with friends

This is probably the most common way that people used to spend time outside of screens. Back in the day, people would spend hours of hours just hanging out with other people. Playing cards, dice, talking, etc. It’s harder to do this today because, sometimes it seems like, everyone are on their screens all the time. But it can absolutely be done and investing time in developing friendships is probably the most valuable investment you can make. I truly believe making friendships is the secret to a happy life.


A lot of people are struggling with reading today. Because the constant stream of new information on the internet makes it hard to invest the time and concentration required to get absorbed in the book. If struggling to read, I think a good way to get back into it is to force yourself to read a bit every day in the beginning, for example just, 15 minutes. Don’t expect those 15 minutes to be enjoyable, but before you know if you may start to really not wanna put the book down. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself really enjoy reading this way. Reading is a great way to learn new things or learn the experience of others. When reading, you get to travel the world and have the experience of others from their own perspective.


Doing puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, etc, is a time-honored way to spend your time. It’s important to give your brain a break from your own thoughts sometimes. Puzzles and crosswords can be a great way to keep your brain fresh by focusing on something while escaping reality for just a moment.


Cal Newport, in his book Digital Minimalism, defines solitude as time alone with your own thoughts. It does not have to be physically alone. In fact, you can be surrounded by people while still being alone with your own thoughts. You cannot have solitude while processing the input from others though. For example, you reading this right now is not solitude. Because you are processing the words that I — another human — have written, you are not alone with your own thoughts. Humans are hard-wired to take the words of others — spoken or written — very seriously, so the experience of doing so is drastically different than being in solitude.

But the human brain needs solitude to be healthy. Solitude is when we connect with ourselves, contemplate how we feel about things and what’s valuable, determine what should be our next move, and come to new insights. If you are struggling with not having enough mental clarity, consider adding more time for solitude. The introduction of smartphones into our lives makes it possible to virtually remove any minute of solitude from the day. But this is not good for us. A great way to start adding solitude to your life is to stop checking your phones when you wait for something. Waiting in the grocery line? Solitude. Waiting for the bus? Solitude. Waiting for the bathroom to get free in the morning? Solitude.

Create something

Creativity can take many forms. It can be painting, playing an instrument, singing, woodworking, gardening, writing, or any other way you chose to express yourself. Creativity can both be fun and fulfilling for the soul.

My favorite ways of self-expression are writing and creating music. Writing allows me to process my thoughts and feelings. Putting them into physical writing form, allow me to gain so much more clarity. I find writing to be a great way to process the things I learn and think about. I love to learn about new things and writing allows me to process all that input into coherent ideas.

My other favorite form of self-expression is music. I love playing the piano and sing-a-long to songs that I like. I can easily do that for hours. It is also fun to learn a skill as you get better and better at it as you go.

Being in nature

We humans need to be in nature from time to time to be grounded. Nature sparks creativity and calm. Being in nature can also be great to combine with physical activity, solitude, or being with friends and family. There are so many different ways to spend time in nature but some ideas are taking a walk, going camping, fishing, and skiing.

Maintaining practical life

A significant amount of time needs to go to practical life maintenance. Cooking a healthy meal. Taking care of laundry. Tidying up. These are important things to keep us healthy, happy, and at peace. Try to find enjoyment in doing these things. When turning off the screen, it can be surprising how quickly your brain will get you to do these things. It can also be a meditative practice to give your brain a break by focusing on something tactual. It is also is rewarding as it makes life generally more enjoyable to have your surroundings and practicalities in order.

What do you do when not on a screen?

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