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20 Genius Ways to Kill Time without a Smartphone

What in the world did we do before 2007?

According to the tech firm Asurion, each and every one of us checks his or her phone roughly 80 times per day. At this point, if you can make it more than 30 seconds without checking your phone, you're practically a superhero. Let's be clear: This isn't good. Spending too much time hunched over your screen can give you "tech neck" (chronic upper back and neck pain), a minimized attention span, and, according to research out of the University of Granada, even lead to weight gain.

So next time you're standing in the check-out line at the grocery store and have 46 seconds to kill, don't check Instagram. Instead, try one of the best ways to amusingly pass the time without your smartphone, which we've compiled right here. And if you need some extra motivation to embark on the occasional digital detox, check out the 20 Surprising Ways Your Cell Phone Harms Your Health.

Zone out.

Woman Daydreaming

There's mounting evidence to suggest that daydreaming, contrary to its image as a total act of dumb laziness, can help boost your mood and even sharpen your mind. So go ahead: imagine yourself on a Belize beachfront.

Settle some Catan.

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan, everyone's favorite board game (it's sold more than 22 million copies, and is available in 30 different languages), has one serious issue: it's a pain to bring anywhere… Or at least it was. Nowadays, there's a to-go version of the game ($59.99;

It's half the size of the original, and features sturdy, locked-in pieces to prevent spillage. So if you want to get your trading and building on, know that you can now do it anywhere. And for more ways to put down the phone, learn the 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.


man newspaper cafe

Books. Magazines. Newspapers. Remember those? Now, let's do some math. First, take a speed-reading test. (You can find free options online fairly easily.) If you're anything like the average American, you'll clock in at 200 words per minute. Next, figure out how much time you spend waiting per day. Between waiting for your commute, your lunch, your coffee, you can easily spend north of 30 minutes per day just standing around. Instead, dedicate that time to powering through some prose. And if you want to learn how to amp up your input, just master The Expert's Guide to Speed-Reading Any Book.

Listen to music.

Man Listening to Music

It's hard to believe, but, before Spotify and Apple Music upended the music industry, people used to download their music. Here's the thing: that's still possible. You don't need an internet connection to stream your favorite tunes. In fact, you can pick up a quality, compact MP3 player for less than five bucks!


woman meditate standing

Meditation can help slash stress, improve blood flow, and amplify overall feelings of happiness. And, although common depictions of meditation feature people sitting Sukhasana ("criss cross applesauce"), know that you can also meditate while standing. In fact, in Yi Quan—a Chinese martial art—masters teach apprentices to meditate standing up with a simple trick. First, move your arms about a tennis ball's distance away from your body. Then, join your hands together below the naval. You'll know you're doing it right if you feel like you're holding a beach ball.

Practice mindfulness.

Woman Practicing Mindfulness

Meditation can help you be more mindful, but it's not the only way. Mindfulness, simply put, is about being in the moment. And you have opportunities to be in the moment every single day—except you're burying yourself in social media or email, instead. So step back and take in the sights and sounds around you. And to make the most of your quest for balance, learn the 20 Ways You're Stopping Yourself From Being More Mindful Without Realizing It.

Get in a workout.


Yes, you may look silly. But if you have 15 minutes to kill—and if you have the space, of course—you can slate in a workout. It's much better for you than swiping right (or left) is. Consider basic moves like squats, lunges, and pushups. For inspiration, try Bella Hadid's Fat-Burning 15-Minute Workout.


Couple Shopping

Yes, point-of-sale wares can be gimmicky. But a keen eye can also turn up gems. Did you know, for example, that Starbucks switches up their selection by season? (Come autumn, keep an eye out for the truly decadent pumpkin madeleines.) Or that, at H&M, the only place you can pick up colored ankle socks—a must-have for balmy summer days—is at the checkout line? And if you do try clothes-shopping, be sure you know the 30 Best Ways to Save Money on Clothes. 

Play Sudoku.


Pick up a pocket-sized Sudoku book ($7.99; and keep it in your back pocket. You get bonus points for playing this mathematical bender in pen, by the way: no erasing, so you have to be certain of each move if you want a flawless result.

Meet a stranger.

Women Talking to Each Other

Waiting around is a perfect opportunity for you to hone your conversation skills. Strike up a chat with a stranger. You may end up pleasantly surprised by a riveting conversation. Or you may end up mind-numbingly bored—in which case, hey, you only wasted a few minutes. If you need a launching pad, learn the 30 Great Icebreakers That Are Always Hilarious.


Woman Eavesdropping

Or, if you're not the social type, pick up on the chatter around you. Who knows: maybe you'll end up with inspiration for a book.

Play a game.

Crowd of People

Concentration. Never Have I Ever. Categories. I Spy. If you're with a group, there are countless time-killing games to play. For our money, though, the best game is nameless. Here's how to play: pick out a stranger (or a group), and come up with a story about them. Keep it within the bounds of reality, and guess why they're there—or have fun with it, and imagine them as a globetrotting MI6 agent. Whatever! The choice is yours.


Man Drawing

According to the Harvard Health Letter, doodling can improve memory and concentration over the long-term, and mitigate "psychological distress" in the short. What's more, it's also a presidential hobby; reportedly, 26 U.S. presidents have been avid doodlers, including Ronald Reagan, who loved to draw cowboys. (Negative two points to whomever didn't guess that.)

Take selfies.

woman polaroid selfie

Fact: everyone looks better in a Polaroid. So instead of snapping selfies with your smartphone camera—some lenses, like the one on LG's G5, are fish-eyed and supremely unflattering—take your selfies with a Polaroid. Best of all, waiting for on-the-spot development can be a fun game in and of itself.

Freshen up.

woman waiting and fixing scarf elevator

Fix your hair or makeup. Straighten your tie, or make sure your shirt's actually tucked in (hey, we've all had unfortunate slip-ups). The waiting period is a perfect opportunity to make sure you look as flawless as possible. In fact, as legend has it, elevators were first outfitted with mirrors—back in the 1940s—for the sole purpose of helping riders pass the time.

Play Nintendo.

Super Mario Nintendo Swtich

"Play Nintendo," may be your grandma's (incorrect) catchall phrase for "play video games." But these days, it's not entirely incorrect. Nintendo, far and away, produces the best on-the-go gaming consoles on the market, from the Wii U to the New 3DS to last year's blockbuster Switch. For our money, pick up the Switch ($300; Between Super Mario OdysseyLegend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the 2017 Game of the Year; and an impressive suite of remastered games, like Shovel Knight and DOOM, you'll never go bored.


Man Organizing Wallet

There's a good chance your wallet or purse isn't as organizationally optimized as it could be. (Crumpled receipts and loose objects are frequent culprits.) Take the time to set up a system to ensure you know exactly where everything is at all times. And hey, it'll save you time down the line—especially once you get to the register.

Do Some Journaling.

Woman Writing in Journal

More than a penny for your thoughts, you can begin to understand the inner mechanics of your mind, just by simply jotting down your ideas. Many writers have credited their journaling routine with uncovering hidden stories and wisdom in their day-to-day lives that may have been otherwise lost in the fog.

Compulsively check your watch.

Woman Checking Watch

And impatiently tap your fingers and toes. Because, if besuited men in the Financial District are any indication, the more you transparently project your impatient and boredom, the faster the time goes by.

Call your mom.

mother receiving phone call

Yes, it's technically giving up—but at least you're using your phone for a higher purpose. What's more, according to a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, when you hear your mom's voice, your oxytocin—that's the hormone that helps slash stress—receptors go into overdrive. So listen to your mother. Call more often. You don't even need a smartphone do it. Though, if you find yourself resorting to this, you should probably check out the 20 Signs You're Addicted To Your Smartphone.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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