Things shift a lot in the summer season for our family. We spend even more time outside and we have way less organized responsibilities (read: school and sports).

So for me, summer has become a great time to take stock of my digital life and consider what’s helping me manage this part of my life and make screen time work for me and my family, and not the other way around.

Here are four things currently saving my digital life.

Kindle + Overdrive for digital reading heaven

Overdrive is my BFF. It’s the app/website where you can check out digital library books to then download to your Kindle or e-reader of choice. We use this like crazy (in addition to all the traditional paper books we read), especially for traveling– three cheers for easily carrying twenty plus books right in the palm of my hand.

Each reader in our family has their own login (with our library card numbers) and then we can check out ebooks and audiobooks to our heart’s content.

If you don’t have an e-reader, you can just get the Kindle app for your phone or tablet, or you can try the new app by Overdrive called Libby. You can sign up for Overdrive through your local library’s website usually.

Being picky about my social media

I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with social media. The key is figuring out which aspects of it we love, and which we hate.

For me, I figured out that the less time I spend on Facebook, the better. So I keep my account for checking in on groups but that’s about it.

On the other hand, I figured out that I really enjoy Instagram stories, and more than anything I’ve been spending my social media time on my Instagram “side account” dedicated to the world of “bookstagram.” On that account (@nicoleviolabooks), I follow other book-lovers– readers, writers, bookstores, etc, so it’s a very curated (and drama-free) social media zone.

My kids think it’s very funny (nerdy?) when I keep taking pictures of books, but I just shrug it off.

Giving my kids screen time… *some restrictions apply

I found this idea on a blog years ago, and it has worked wonders. My kids aren’t allowed to ask for screen time until they do a list of items (although sometimes need reminders of have you done the list yet?).

It’s not a short list, so once it’s done, I let them have more screen time than normal, although to be honest, most days we’re too busy at the beach, pool, or out in the neighborhood to make it worrisome.

Depending on your kids’ age and stage, you can make the list reflect whatever goals you want your kids to meet each day.

Here’s our current list as a sample (our kids are 7, 8, and 11):

  • brush teeth, make bed, tidy up room (and put away clean and dirty laundry)
  • read from a chapter book for at least 20 minutes (this often goes longer for some readers)
  • finish your assigned schoolwork for the day (some days I have them do some, some not), plus, practice piano
  • do something creative, active, or productive, for at least 30 minutes (this usually ends up going way longer as they get into a puzzle, game, or playing outside)
  • do a chore or something to help the family

I also keep a list of chore ideas nearby or assign certain group chores, like cleaning all the leaves up off the patio.

This list has been great for both giving the kids something to do when we’re home for a long stretch and I have things to do, and also for not having them pester me for screen time or not know the expectations for earning it.

We use some version of this year round, although I find that it applies best to the freedom we have on summer or vacation days.

Finding my best, most-useful apps

Finally, let’s talk apps that are saving my life these days. I’m constantly deleting apps I don’t currently need or use, and have my phone organized with most of my apps in folders, except favorites that I use most frequently.

Current faves that are making my life easier/better are:

  • Spotify (I’m almost ready to bite the bullet and go for the family membership)
  • Overcast (for podcasts)
  • Waze (for traffic/maps, and which now syncs with Spotify!)
  • Venmo (for paying or getting paid, splitting checks, etc)
  • GoodReads (for tracking my reading)
  • Chatbooks (for printing IG photo books automatically)
  • IFTTT (for making my phone do random related tasks for me)

Most recently, I’ve moved to a Drop Box subscription, for storing more of my data in the cloud. Around the time I began writing this article, my laptop decided to crash and die, so I will be going much more cloud-based in the future (along with multiple back ups!).

Storing less critical data directly on my computer will hopefully save my digital life increasingly in the future.

I’m sure you use lots of these; feel free to share other current favorite apps in the comments!

Of course, I’d say the biggest thing saving my digital life, is balancing it with the rest of my life, the more analog side.

There’s nothing like getting out in the sunshine and putting the phone—and all the other devices, aside, for recapturing a little sanity.