Everywhere we turn there is a human being stuck in his Smartphone, addicted to the other world. And we do not dissolve about some serious addiction; it’s a lot more than that. This is an addiction most people don’t even know they have, and it’s probably a step away from you (if not in your hands). Yes, it’s about your phone.
According to a study constituted by Nokia published in 2013, people check their phones an average of 150 times per day. It looks pretty serious thing to me.
We are obsessed with our phones, and it kills our productivity. There’s been countless articles of how to increase productivity with different apps, but the deception lies in the obvious; it takes for us to use the phone.
Checking it is just the first step. Then we fall in the endless circle of “one more quick thing”, and soon we find ourselves on 9gag.
To increase productivity, you have to deplete your phone from the equation. Productivity starts with real life habits, not applications. So here are 7 phone habits that actually increase your productivity.
Smartphones effect on people shown : St. Peter’s Square between 2005 and 2013
1. Get rid of icons
One of the crucial tips I’ve found online is to deplete my home screen of all app icons. Despite having over 50 apps on my phone, my home screen only has 3 icons. (and no, they are not Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr)
The reason icons are such a time killer is because they provide a deceptive way to interact with a product in a manner that has almost zero friction. Even worse, most of the apps are designed psychologically designed to root a habit. (pleasant colors, keywords etc.)
Here is a quick example to demonstrate. If you have Tumblr on your phone, open up the app and look at your news feed. Notice the pictures on the screen of groups you personally liked that share pictures you completely ‘drool’ and love to look at? No matter how far down you scroll, there is always another beautiful picture. This is the trick. It gets you to scroll down even farther and stay shackled to it.
So, which apps should you have on your home screen? Personally, the only icons I have are those for which the effectiveness of the app is reliant on their being quickly available. For example notes (you can even find on Nokia 3310) is most effective. This actually combines with productivity, because if I am working and get an-all-of-a-sudden-idea, I can write down the note and work on it later.
What we don’t need on our home screen is Facebook or Twitter unless your business depends on them. I do have those apps to manage Simplecapacity accounts on Twitter and Facebook, but I never need to access them quickly, so they aren’t on my home screen.
By removing icons from your home screen, you increase the mental habit of opening those apps and remove the habitual tendency to do so.
2. Eliminate notifications
In addition to shackling you to engage their product, most app designers use notifications to help pull you into the app. If you are lazy enough to read ‘license and agreements’ as I was before, the “get notifications” is always checked automatically.
And with the icon on the home screen, these notifications kill productivity, despite being unnecessary in the majority of cases.
If you think about the notifications on your phone, how many are truly helpful? Is it really that important to be notified every time you get a new Tumblr follower? Do you need a notification with every email you get? Probably not.
Personally, the only notifications I receive are none. I take my phone, put it on silent, and throw it in my bedroom when I have something to write (like the thing I am doing now.)
Every job requires concentration. In my world, that means writing or programming. If I am doing either, the phone is immediately on airplane mode and silenced to remove all distractions.
3. Put speed limit on texting
Besides apps, there are other distractions on your phone. One major is texting. If email is a time-killer, texting is even worse. A text message travels just as quickly as an email, but unlike email, people expect a quick response.
One way to put a stop to the text messaging is to wait before responding. Even if I am not that busy, I’ve formed a habit to forget about it for 15-20 minutes before making a quick respond. The benefits are not in the amount of time it takes me to reply; it takes just as long to reply whether I do it now or 20 minutes later.
The benefit of limited texting is in how it affects the participant. When you don’t do a quick respond, you impose a speed limit on the conversation. Whether they realize or not, they slow down too and eventually limit how many messages they send.
By using this method, people have learned that if their message is urgent, they can just call me. Otherwise, don’t expect a swift reply.
4. Have a phone-free morning
When most people wake up in the morning of the worst-music alarm, one of the first things they do is re-check their phones. This is a bad idea, because the first thing you are doing is freeing yourself in distractions. There is really no point in checking your phone that soon after you open your eyes.
Look at it this way. If you sleep for 8 hours per night, and if your phone messages are evenly distributed across that time period throughout the night, then those messages have already been sitting there for an average of couple of hours. Is your world really going to end if you wait a little bit longer before making a response?
Instead of checking your phone first thing in the morning, take some time to clear your mind. I don’t check my phone for a 45 minutes after I wake up, and so far, I am still alive!
5. Get a faster phone
This one may sound surprising. Most people don’t think of getting faster phone when they need to increase their productivity. After all, how much time can you save by getting a better phone? Well, it could be more than you realize.
Let’s do a quick math. As we said earlier, the average person check his phone 150 times per day. If your lethargic phone requires an extra 10 seconds to do each of those tasks, that is a loss of 25 minutes every day. If your phone is old and outdated, a faster device could potentially save up to 30 minutes per day even without changing any other habits.
Now, this is economical, but it depends on what you do with your time. Thirty minutes may not sound like a lot of time, but if you are a freelancer or self-employed, that time can be very valuable. If you make $10 per hour doing freelance work, an extra 30 minutes of productivity every day can go up to an extra $100 per month or more.
Thirty minutes per day is an extra 15 hours every month. It is enough time to read a whole book, or take a class online.
6. Turn it off one day a month
I’ve already mentioned the importance of not checking your phone first thing in the morning, but it is also good to have at least one day per month of no phone activity at all. I don’t say you should put the phone in airplane mode, or silent. I mean completely off.
The value of having a phone-free day every month is in how it affects your attitude toward your phone. When you remove the phone for a day, you reinforce the role of your phone as a tool, rather than something that consumes you. You remind yourself to focus on what is most important in your life, like face-to-face conversations with real people. To experience the world, you have to become aware of it, and you can’t do that when you are looking at your screen!
7. Have a time constraint
There will be times when you will use the apps for fun. There is nothing wrong with playing a quick game now and then, or scrolling through Tumblr. But you can help prevent those habits from consuming too much time by using them when you have important things to do.
Have in mind that those apps are designed to make you use them as long as possible, so the designers strategically construct them to use you in some way. If you want to take back your time, you can’t rely on the applications to do it for you. Instead, you should have another way that is phone-independent.
Simply using an alarm clock on the phone is not enough, because it is too easy to turn off the alarm and finish ‘just one more thing’. Use an alarm that is not on the phone. When it starts beeping, first close the app, then close the phone, then finally turn off the alarm. This forces you to put up some distance between you and the app. If you have removed all icons from your home screen as we mentioned earlier, this becomes even more effective.
Phones and apps are specifically designed to suck you in. Most ‘productivity apps’ are designed to take something from you (if not your limited time). Because they force you to get back on the phone and reintroduce new distractions. But with a few modifications to your phone habits, you can take back your time and actually get more done. (I actually made it without phone for 6 months!)