Save 17% with an Annual Subscription

The 2% Screen Time Challenge

We're partnering with Clearspace to get our time and attention back.

The 2% Screen Time Challenge


  • This post, like all Monday posts, is free for everyone. If you’d like to get full access to all of our great posts, become a Member below. We save you more time and money than the monthly cost.
  • Wednesday, we’ll cover my favorite and most useful smartphone apps. Friday will be an AMA.
  • Good news: We’ve officially transitioned Monday’s audio to podcast format. This audio reading is now available on Spotify, etc.
  • We’ve got Monday podcasts covered. We’re still figuring out how to give paid Members a private podcast feed in their app of choice yet also give unpaid non-Members a free preview of the podcast in any feed. More to come on that.

Podcast version of today’s post

You can listen to today’s post on Spotify right now. Apple Podcasts is currently approving the 2% with Michael Easter podcast, but it should be up by the end of the day today (Monday, 3/18). The podcast is also now available on other platforms like Amazon, Pocketcasts, etc.

Now onto today’s post …

Today, we’re announcing a 2 Percent Screen Time Challenge. The winner gets some great gear.

The idea came together like this: A few months back, I wrote a post about using grayscale to reduce screen time.

Afterward, I received a message from a developer named Royce Branning. He and another developer named Oliver Hill founded an app called Clearspace.

Royce’s message said:

Just had a friend forward me your article on grayscale. I think you'll resonate with our app Clearspace … lots of our users started out grayscaling their phones before they found us.

Clearspace is an app designed to eliminate digital distractions and help you get your time and attention back.

My initial internal reaction to Royce’s message was something like, “You want me to use an app so I can use another app less?”

But I said sure, downloaded Clearspace, and used it—and it worked. Well.

The app is, as Royce says, like Ozempic for screen time.

I wrote back to Royce two weeks later and thanked him.

Clearspace changed how I use my time and attention. It reduced my screen time and helped me use apps more intentionally.

This couldn’t be more important. William James, the father of American psychology, captured something profound about this brief stint of consciousness we all have and call life. In the end, he said, our life is ultimately a collection of what we paid attention to.

Hence, 2% is partnering with Clearspace to run a free two-week 2% Screen Time Challenge to help us get some time and attention back.

Here’s how the 2% Clearspace Challenge will work:

Step 1: Download Clearspace

Grab your phone, download the Clearspace app, and create an account.

You’ll do a quick onboarding. This involves answering a few questions, giving Clearspace screen time and notifications access (it only notifies you when you try to open an app you limited), etc. Clearspace will also ask if you want to upgrade to paid—“skip” is at the top right of that screen.

(Note: Clearspace is currently only available on iPhone, but the team is working on launching an Android version).

Step 2: Join the 2% Challenge

Once you download the app, click the following button:

That’ll flow you into the 2% Screen Time Challenge. You’ll determine:

  • The apps you’d like to limit your use of. (Note: Click the category—e.g. social—to limit specific apps in that category. If you check an entire category, it’ll limit all apps within the category, which you likely don’t want to do.)
  • A total daily budget for your apps. This is how much daily time you can use those apps. If you choose multiple apps, you’ll have to split the time you select between them. (I chose two apps and 27 minutes a day).
  • Your name for the leaderboard.

Step 3: Begin the Challenge

  • The two-week challenge officially starts early Thursday morning at 12:01 a.m. PST and runs until Wednesday, April 3rd at 11:59 p.m.
  • We’ll have a group leaderboard.
  • Those who stay under their goal and rank at the top of the leaderboard will be entered to win a GORUCK Ruck and a 2% Dad Hat.

As a reminder, the challenge is free. Feel free to share this post and the link if you want friends, family, and coworkers to join the challenge.

There you have it.

Want to know the science of why and how Clearspace works so well? Read below.

How Clearspace works

In short

It inserts pause and intentionality before you can use an app you want to limit.

The details

We all have an app or two we check too often without thinking. Then, once we’re on, we often get sucked into scrolling and unintentionally lose 10 or 20 minutes of our lives.

Clearspace has you select which apps you want to limit. Here’s what happens when you open an app you’ve chosen to limit:

  • The app asks you to do a centering exercise. During the centering exercise, you’re asked to breathe in and out.
  • Then the screen shows you a wise quote. (Note: I picked my favorite quotes on life, improvement, and attention for the 2% Screen Time Challenge).
  • From there, you choose whether you actually want to use the app.
  • If you decide to use the app, you must determine how long you’d like to use it. The app gives you options of, say, 1, 5, 10, or 15 minutes.
  • You can then enter the app. Once your selected time is up, you’re kicked out of the app.

That sounds like a lot of steps—but that’s exactly why Clearspace works.

Why Clearspace Works

In short

It interrupts the scarcity loop.

The details

If you’re a frequent reader of 2%, you probably know about the scarcity loop. (If you want a full breakdown of the loop and why it hooks humans, read this or my book, Scarcity Brain.)

In short: The scarcity loop is the most powerful behavior loop. Nothing is better at grabbing a person’s attention, holding it, and leading them to repeat behaviors they often regret later.

It has three conditions:

  • Opportunity: You have an opportunity to get something of value.
  • Unpredictable Rewards: You know you’ll get that thing of value at some point, but you don’t know when or how valuable it’ll be.
  • Quick Repeatability: You can immediately repeat the behavior.

This loop was revived and sharpened in slot machines in the 1980s. It quickly raised slot machine profits by 10 fold. Tech giants noticed the power of the slot machine and co-opted the loop.

It’s what makes the apps that hook people so powerful. Consider social media.

  1. Opportunity: You have an opportunity to get likes or find something that entertains you.
  2. Unpredictable Rewards: You don’t know how many likes you’ll get—it could be just a few, which feels bad. Or it could be a ton—you could even go viral. When scrolling for entertainment, you don’t know when you’ll find a video or post that entertains you or how entertaining it’ll be.
  3. Quick Repeatability: You can check and recheck your likes or keep scrolling (infinitely) for new content.

The scarcity loop is now leveraged by social media, sports betting apps, personal finance apps, dating apps, fitness trackers, YouTube, and much more. It even appears in the modern food system and explains why people stay in toxic relationships for too long.

How to stop the scarcity loop

All you have to do is remove or change any of the loop’s three parts.

In the case of phone use, it’s most powerful to reduce the quick repeatability. The longer it takes to do a behavior, the less likely you are to do it.

Clearspace takes away the quick repeatability.

The process it takes you through before you can use an app slows the behavior and forces intentionality.

And by choosing the amount of time you want to spend on an app before opening it, you:

  1. Get more tactical with your time. You actually make sure you accomplish what you set out to accomplish by using the app.
  2. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of scrolling. This ends mindless scrolling.

Why Clearspace is a sane solution

In short

Rather than methods that ban apps altogether (like getting a dumb phone or deleting apps), Clearspace helps you leverage the good parts of apps and avoid their bad parts.

The details

The apps we get hooked on benefit us—or else we wouldn’t use them. Oliver from Clearspace echoed as much:

(The apps we get hooked on) are obviously useful. We wouldn’t all be onboarded to them if they didn’t provide some benefit. But the downsides are becoming just as obvious and all the low-tech solutions we hear—like get a dumb phone, leave your phone at home, delete apps—are low-tech solutions that ignore the positives that are there to be claimed from apps.

Oliver continued:

We think technology can be uniquely valuable for separating the utility of apps from their distractions. In other words, we have a high-tech solution to a high-tech problem that helps you get the benefit of apps without their distracting downsides.

This is what I like about Clearspace. I love all the apps on my phone—but I don’t like checking them too often and getting sucked into them.

Clearspace allows me to use the apps the way I want. I still get to share dumb videos with my wife and friends on Instagram and use Twitter for research.

In other words, Clearspace helps you use apps and not let apps use you.

Have fun, don’t die, join the 2% Screen Time Challenge.


Sponsored by GORUCK

When I decided to accept sponsorships for this newsletter, GORUCK was a natural fit. Not only is the company's story included in The Comfort Crisis, but I've been using GORUCK's gear since the brand was founded. Seriously. They've been around ~12 years and I still regularly use a pack of theirs that is 11 years old. Their gear is made in the USA by former Special Forces soldiers. They make my favorite rucking setup: A Rucker 4.0 and Ruck Plate.

**Use discount code MEASTER10 for 10% off**

Sponsored by Maui Nui Venison

Axis Deer provides the healthiest meat on the planet. That's according to researchers at Utah State, who compared axis deer meat to beef and found that it contains 1 to 64 times more antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. It also contains 53% more protein per calorie than beef. Here's a fascinating brief on the research. Equally important is that Maui Nui solves ethical considerations around meat. Axis Deer are an invasive species ravaging the Hawaiian island of Maui, and Maui Nui harvests the deer at night in a stress-free way, improving the ecosystem.

My picks: I like it and eat everything from Maui Nui, but the 90/10 Organ Blend is particularly great for people looking to get more micronutrients in their diet, and the Jerky Sticks are my go-to travel snack.

**Use discount code EASTER for 15% off.**

Sponsored by Momentous

Momentous made me feel good about supplements again. Over 150 professional and collegiate sports teams and the US Military trust their products, thanks to the company’s rigorous science and testing. I don’t have the time or desire to cook perfectly balanced meals that give me all the necessary nutrients and protein I need (let’s face it, few of us do!). So I use their collagen in the morning; Recovery protein during hard workouts; essential multivitamin to cover my bases; creatine because it’s associated with all sorts of great things; and Fuel on my longest endurance workouts on 100+ degree days here in the desert (because Rule 2: Don’t die). And I also love (love!) that Momentous is researching and developing women-specific performance supplements.

**Use discount code EASTER for 15% off.**