It happens to all of us. We get home from work but continue to check email, waste time on social networking sites or stare blankly at a computer. It's not healthy, but you can use the same tech that's binding you to help you break your habit.
Recent studies have revealed your smartphone is a source of stress. More specifically, your smartphone's easy access and constant notifications create stress to keep up with your social networks. If you're the type to constantly check in with Twitter, email or Facebook, it's easy to block access during specific times of the day. None of this methods can stop you from forcing yourself into your Facebook or email if you want to, but they'll at least slow you down and make it a bit of a pain to do so.
Block Social Networks and Email at the Router Level
The easiest way to keep dinner time just about dinner is to block your access at the router level. This comes with a few caveats. If you're trying to block your phone, you can always switch over to over-the-air network to get access, but this requires a few steps that hopefully aren't worth it. In this case, it's about blocking the immediate access during specified time periods.
The first step is to get access to your router. Usually you just need to point your browser to
192.168.1.1, but every router is different. You can check yours by running
ipconfig in a Command Prompt in Windows, or heading to System Preferences > Network on a Mac. If you need some help or this address doesn't work, pull out the user's manual for instructions. If you still need some guidance, take a look at our guide to using a router. After you enter in the username and password (again, this info is in your manual if you've never bothered setting it up), you will get access to the setup menu.
Most routers have a tab called "Access Restrictions", or something similar. You can set your router to block website access during certain points of the day. Click the tab and take a look at the settings. These are going to vary from router to router, but the core principle is the same. On my Linksys router I can set up several different policies to block access. Each policy can have different settings and times.
For instance, on my router, I blocked http://www.facebook.com and http://app.facebook.com (this is where the smartphone apps get access) between 5pm and 8pm by denying access on select days and entering in the URL for the sites. I also have to click the Edit List button and add an IP address range to block. For my purposes, I just blocked 1-200 to ensure all my bases were covered. If you're sharing access and don't want to block everyone out, you can enter in individual MAC addresses. A MAC address will look something like
00:00:0000:00:00 and is usually found under the settings menu on your phone. Once complete, save the settings and you no longer have access to Facebook during dinner time. You can apply the same rules to any of your social vices, whether it's Twitter, email or anything else.
Yes, you can always turn off Wi-Fi on your phone and regain access, but as long as Wi-Fi is enabled, you are blocked and you won't receive notifications. It's not foolproof, but it will hopefully remove that first temptation.
Block Access to the Internet from Your Phone
If your smartphone isn't tapped into your home wireless network, things can start to get a little more tricky for iOS, but they're a breeze on Android.
On Android: On Android, you can automate tasks depending on the time. We've shown you how to automate your Android phone with Tasker before, but you can do this with any automation app, including AutomateIt or Llama. With any of these tools your best bet is to set a time-sensitive context that triggers the Wi-Fi and Mobile Data settings to turn off. If you find yourself particularly addicted to repeatedly checking your email when you walk into your house, you can also set up location-specific lockouts.
On iOS: Unlike Android, iOS doesn't have a lot of options to do this automatically. If you're trying to cut yourself off, the above router trick might be the best solution. Alternatively, you can add shortcuts to your home screen for quick access to aeroplane mode. You should also turn off notifications for your social media apps by tapping Settings > Notifications. With notifications disabled you still have access to an app, but at least it won't ping you every time something happens. As a last resort, follow our guide to set up parental controls and set the restrictions to block access to all apps. This will wreak havoc on a carefully crafted home screen and scatter icons everywhere, but it will temporarily remove them from the screen and require a passcode to use. If your willpower is still not strong enough, delete the apps from your phone and restrict yourself to accessing social networking from a computer.
The theory is that if you lock yourself out of your biggest internet distractions on your phone, you can enjoy your time at home more and reduce your stress level. Even if you're not addicted to checking Facebook or your email all the time, it's still nice to get a couple hours (or days) of freedom from them. If your smartphone isn't the problem and it's your computer instead, we've detailed how to use StayFocusd to do the exact same thing from a browser level. None of these options will keep you out if you really want to get in, but they'll at least kill the desire to repeatedly glance at your phone.