Is your phone preventing you from getting work done?
Your phone can be an incredible tool to make you more productive – you just need to organise it more thoughtfully. Notifications, games and social media all stimulate an environment of mindless scrolling and task interruption. Yet, science tells us that we are much more productive when we are focused on a single task. So if you’re a freelancer, solopreneur or micro-business owner looking to transform your phone into a great productivity tool, follow these five simple steps…
Set up the essential home screen
Research suggests people look at their phones up to 150 times per day, hence an organised home screen is crucial when it comes to productivity. Think of your home screen as a group of apps that you are in charge of, rather than a group of apps that rule you. What we mean by this is that if an app triggers mindless scrolling (think Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter), move it onto the second screen. The home screen should only be filled with apps used as primary tools for defined tasks i.e. apps that help you accomplish things. These could include Uber (getting to a destination), Maps (finding a location) or a calendar app (adding an appointment). Try to limit these to five or six primary tools.
Next, look to add apps to your home screen that you aspire to spend more of your time on. These aspiration apps could include Headspace for meditation, Joe Wicks for exercise, Kindle for reading books or Podcasts for learning new things. These are all apps that will better you and will have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing in the long term.
You’ll be surprised at the impact of moving the unproductive apps that you open and get lost in for hours (usually social media) on the second screen. With all these distracting apps on a different page, your phone’s home screen should be left with only the apps used for primary tools and aspirations. Be ruthless.
Download apps which boost productivity
With the right productivity apps, you can use your phone as a tool for better time management and task scheduling.
- Pocket allows you to save web pages with a single tap. Rather than emailing yourself useful links, save them to your Pocket account which will sync with your computer’s web browser via the Pocket plug-in.
- Google calendar will provide structure to your day. Schedule and colour code blocks of time for different tasks. We suggest 25-minute chunks as the most effective (shout out to the Pomodoro Technique which we referenced here).
- OneNote is the perfect place to gather your notes, drawings, screen clippings, and audio commentaries. Your digital notebook can then be shared with other OneNote users, which means it is a great platform for collaboration.
- Google Drive will help you to stay productive on-the-go. Not only can you add or respond to comments, but the app will also automatically save even if you don’t have an internet connection.
Focus on your mental health & wellbeing
A phone is more often than not the cause of added anxiety and stress. But, you can use your phone to relax and unwind. Mindfulness apps such as Calm or Headspace can help you conduct guided meditations to destress and improve focus.
According to Gloria Mark, one of the leading researchers on “interruption science” at UC Irvine, the more interruptions we get, the more it increases our internal clock rates for self-interruption. To minimise unconscious use of your phone, go to your notification centre and turn off all your notifications except when people (not apps) are trying to reach you.
Do not disturb
You should try to schedule some phone-free time every day. The ‘do not disturb’ setting on your phone is perfect for blocking out your phone’s distractions. Notifications are productivity’s number one enemy, with studies showing that it can take over 23 minutes to get back to your original task after being distracted by them. With push notifications and alerts turned off, you are enabling yourself to work uninterrupted from phone calls and text messages. Turn your phone’s ‘do not disturb’ mode on for just one hour and see how much more work you get done.
A productivity tool
There are plenty of podcasts out there which focus on productivity, business and personal growth. Some of our favourites are Getting Things Done by David Allen, The 5 AM Miracle by Jeff Sanders and Beyond the To-Do List by Erik Fisher.
You can also use your phone to learn a new skill. Apps like Duolingo are great for learning a new language or Glo for teaching yourself yoga. According to a recent survey, the average internet user spent two hours and 22 minutes on social networking and messaging platforms. So, to reclaim those 2.5 hours of your day, delete apps that prohibit productivity and learning. Use the handy “Screen Time” feature on iOS to see which apps you waste most of your time on during an average day and try to get these down.