Smartphones can be a double edged sword: They can work with you, but also against you. I’ve been experimenting with ways of using my iPhone as a tool that empowers me in my daily life instead of a burden that drags me into a rabbit hole of distraction. Here are a couple of hacks I use to keep myself away from the rabbit hole.
1. Removing the bad triggers from your home screen
You can’t win from yourself. The moment you see the Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram app icon on your home screen you will click on it. Even if you resist this craving for some entertainment, the red badge in the corner of the Snapchat icon will tilt you over to the dark side. And you’re probably also not aware of how many times in a day you spend 15 or 30 minutes browsing on social media. Accumulatively it can lead to multiple hours a day of mostly time wasting stuff.
That’s why you should remove these bad triggers from your home screen. Move the social media apps to a folder and place the folder on the third page. I’m sure that even this little step will decrease, unconsciously, your social media usage by a lot.
I removed both the Instagram and Facebook app from my phone to make it even harder for me to access these platforms. If I really want it, I go to Safari and use the web version. My social media use dropped a mind-blowing 70%!
This triggering effect, as I described in my recent post Atomic Habits, can also be used in your advance. I only put apps in my home screen that will lead to being more productive. For example my to-do list widget, my notes app and my agenda.
2. Do Not Disturb mode
I use this feature a lot. Your phone doesn’t wake up when receiving a notification when you have this enabled. If I want to get an hour of work done productively, I turn on Do Not Disturb and start working. I will probably be done in 30 minutes because I am not distracted by all the messages, notifications and calls I receive on my phone. And the world probably won’t burn down if you put your phone away for an hour.
3. Turning off your notifications and badges
Alright you have followed my first tip and removed the bad triggers from your home screen. Great! However, after 30 minutes you get a notification that X person liked your post on Facebook. You will tap on it and be scrolling the infinity wall again. This is not the way it should work.
Most apps will do anything to get your attention. If you haven’t been on Facebook a while you will get more and more notifications to trigger you to get on the app again. Because that’s how they make money. You will get a “recommended friends” notification, “someone started a live video” notification, “someone liked your post from two months ago” notification and so on.
In order to reduce these triggers, try eliminating as much as possible of the notifications that you receive.
The less irrelevant notifications you receive, the less you will be distracted and the more you will be focused on the thing you’re working on.
The same is true for the little red badges in the corner of the app. Turn these off for most apps as well because these are also really sneaky triggers which are used to get you into the app.
The only notifications I have enabled are for messaging apps that need my immediate attention like Messages, WhatsApp etc.
4. Screen Time
iOS has a very powerful feature which most of you will know. Screen Time doesn’t only tracks how many minutes you spend on each app per day/week, but also how many times you picked your phone up after receiving a notification from app X or the count of notifications you receive per app each day.
The feature I use the most is limiting my screen time for certain apps and websites. I have set 30 minutes a day for the use of social media apps and news websites. After that the apps will be grayed out and if you want to access it you can extend it for one, fifteen, or the entire day if you really need to. This makes me aware that I’m not browsing social media for one hour when I just quickly wanted to search for something.
5. Creating your own system
Every smartphone user is different. That’s why everyone needs a different system. Creating a system takes a while and you will probably correct course every now and then. Your smartphone can be as good or bad as you want it to be. Make use of the tools the OS gives to you and create your own little system for making your smartphone powerful.
Little hacks make your life a lot easier and the possibilities are endless.
The Shortcuts app helps you automate a lot of stuff you would have to do manually. These are a couple of things my iPhone does for me:
- I created a shortcut that let’s me create a new to-do from the homescreen.
- I get a notification at a certain time each night that reminds me that I probably should go to bed.
- I get a notification every day in the evening that I should not forget writing in my journal today.
- I have recurring reminders every week for doing my Weekly Review.
- My alarm is being set automatically every day.
- At 7:45 in the morning my desk light will replicate a sunrise. This makes it easier for me to wake up.
The tips above are just a small part of the things you can do to get more productive. I would suggest that you try these for a week and see if it works for you. You can always go back to the way you’re used to.
As I said earlier, your smartphone is a double edged sword.
Be wise and choose the right edge.