When it comes to procrastination, mobile phones can be culprit number one. Scrolling through apps has become less to do with networking and discovery as it has wasting precious time.
But the problem is arguably as much to do with addictive interfaces as our own attitudes towards the tech we so rely on. And in fact, these ever-evolving pieces of pocket-sized tech have many functionalities that can improve our day-to-day productivity.
Because our work and personal lives increasingly depend on the handheld output of Apple and Android, finding more efficient ways to use our phones isn’t only beneficial, but essential. Here are some of the ways you can harness the tools in your phone for good.
Do not disturb
Studies have attributed a delay of as many as 23 minutes to getting back to your original task after being distracted by a notification, so it’s no wonder our phones get a bad rap when it comes to workplace distraction.
But if various push notifications, breaking news and group messenger chats are capturing your attention more than a pressing deadline that requires deep work, phones tend to have a built-in mode to set productive intentions.
The “Do Not Disturb” function on an iPhone, for instance, stops notifications, alerts and calls from making a noise, vibrating, or lighting up your phone screen. You can even schedule it to come on for a few hours a day for periods in which you need to be particularly focussed.
Delegate to your intelligent assistant
Love them or hate them, the advent of intelligent assistants such as Alexa and Siri is all about streamlining (it’s believed there will be as many IA-enabled devices as there are humans in a matter of years). A recent article from Harvard Business Review, however, pointed out the slow take-up of the technology for work purposes.
We spend just a few minutes a month engaging with our IAs, while a quick look at your screen time analysis will likely attest to much longer spent scrolling through Instagram as worktime procrastination.
With a list of abilities that are constantly growing – including making changes to your settings, daily planning, finding information, performing tasks such as online shopping and communication, to name just a few – making better use of your handheld intelligent assistant becomes more akin to, well, having a real-life personal assistant. As HBR puts it, you will do less but achieve more.
Meditate on this
True though it may be that phones are often vessels for distractions and multitasking, journeying to the App or Google Play Store will also uncover plenty of resources for relaxation.
Using a mindfulness app such as Calm, Headspace or Insight Timer not only facilitates you stepping away from distraction for anywhere between three and 30 minutes a day, it’ll also provide guidance on actionable ways to mute distractions and focus during the working day.
Reshuffle your apps
Out of sight, out of mind might sound like an oversimplified solution to time-wasting on your phone, but it could well be key to resisting unnecessary procrastination.
Most of us place the number one apps for distraction – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook et al – in pride of place on our home screens. Lifehack author James Nathan suggests that simply rearranging the order of your apps could insight more mindful use of them.
Consider replacing social media apps with productivity-focused ones such as Notes, wellness-enhancing ones like Headspace, or ones that promote a new skill, such as Duolingo. The idea is that seeing these when you first turn on your phone will encourage more frequent use of them over repeat use of those less fruitful.
It can look like we’re whiling away the hours when we’re plugged into our headphones on the tube. But though music can provide excellent background noise for ideation, the ever-growing amount of podcasts provide an opportunity to learn in otherwise unproductive settings.
Dig into the podcast archive and you’ll even find great resources for learning about business and personal growth, and productivity enhancement itself. For a great place to start, download The Rich Roll Podcast and skip straight to his enlightening chat with Cal Newport on digital minimalism.
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