Phones have been pretty good for our lives, right?
I would agree with that.
We can talk to just about anyone at any moment in our lives. That’s a good thing. It would seem that more connection with other humans is generally a good thing.
It’s easy to look at phones as a distraction as well. But are we more distracted than we’ve been in the past? We may not have had smartphones in the past, but were there other things that kept our attention?
Our time on smartphones has been increasing according to research. But our overall time with media has not changed that much. It has increased a bit, but we use our phones in spite of things like TV, computers, radio and print.
The trick, which has always been required for busy people and entrepreneurs, is figuring out how to use technology to save time and increase productivity. That requires a few hacks and a few restrictions.
In the past this might mean scheduling specific time each day for reading the newspaper and watching TV. Today we have to learn how to use our phones in ways that makes us more productive, happy and resourceful.
Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Turn Off Notifications
This is probably the biggest item you’ll find for phone hacks, entrepreneurs and productivity. I’ll repeat it because it really is the most important. Nothing throws you off your game more than getting a notification. Interruptions make you stop what you’re doing, even if for a second, and all those little interruptions build over time until your entire life is a notification.
Phones are great because we can get information at any moment, but thankfully we can turn off the notifications for certain apps, people, etc. so that we can manage the flow of information.
2. Turn On Do Not Disturb
This is another popular tip, but it’s a good one. The reason you read it often is because it works. I have Do Not Disturb set for a certain time each night so that I can spend time with family, reading or whatever. I find I am more productive overall when I’m well rested and have time away from work. So even when I’m busy during the week I still use my phone to tune things out so I can come back rested.
3. Turn On Airplane Mode
Building on the last one is Airplane Mode. You do this when you’re on an airplane obviously, but you can turn this on any time and I do this often during the workweek in a sense. Not as much anymore, though, because I don’t require it.
I use to put my phone on Airplane Mode to avoid calls when I was writing blog posts. This way I wouldn’t get interrupted by calls and texts and I had an extra step if I wanted to browse or check an app on the phone.
But over time my contacts became trained to not contact me at certain points during the week and I trained myself to avoid checking apps to distract myself.
I still need it once in a while, though.
4. Set Zero Sum Limits
I’ve been using zero sum limits for things like social media for a while. You can actually use it for a number of areas of your life including your phone.
For example, commit to one social media app instead of five. Your number could be two, but don’t let it creep up more than that. I haven’t used Facebook for a few years and don’t miss it at all. My social media preference is Twitter.
You can do this for things on your phone including games, phone calls, contacts, texts, etc. Every time you want to add something you have to remove something else to make room for it.
The idea is that your phone can only take so much of your time so if you add something you have to remove something else.
5. Timer For Compressed Time
I love the concept of Compressed Time. I like how it forces us to fit work into specific bits of time. The author of that posted used 30-minute increments for various tasks including meetings, working out and much more. I think it’s genius. I’ve kind of done that for work-related items over the years.
I try to limit how long phone calls will take. I even like them to be 15 minutes or less if possible. Or my big preference is to not have calls at all.
To make it easier to make the switch to Compressed Time, use the timer on your phone. When you start a meeting, set the timer and once it goes off you’re done with that task no matter what is going on.
6. More Scheduled Time
In general, I use my phone and I guess the Calendar app to schedule more of my time. I’ll even schedule time for thinking about the business at a high level. So it’s not all work, work, work. I like to schedule time for writing, for thinking, for reading and all the regular work things like writing, checking email, etc.
There is something about having it on the calendar that conditions us to stick to schedules and the more we schedule the more we can get things done.
An important note, however, is that it’s good to audit your calendar from time to time. Assess what tasks are priorities and what can be left out to make more time for what really matters.
7. Quick Notes
I use the Notes app on my phone fairly often. I like to have it open in case an idea strikes. I like taking notes in the app for business, for personal and for whatever. I’ll get them typed and come back to them at the appropriate time.
For example, if I have a thought about a task for work in the evening I can put it in a note, leave it alone and come back to it during scheduled work time. This way I don’t have to get the task done right now. I can feel like it’s taken care of or scheduled and I can get on with what I’m doing.
8. Phone & No Phone Zones
I’ve tried really hard to make the bedroom a No Phone Zone. I struggle with it because I like to read on my phone and I like reading before going to sleep, but I’m trying to get away from it. I have for periods of time and right now I’m on a pretty good run.
And it has a positive effect.
The living room is another good place for a No Phone Zone. When you’re with the person you love, friends, family or whatever it’s good to be as present as possible. You can talk, watch TV, read or whatever, but you’re doing it together without the distraction of a phone.
But when you’re in your office then you can have the phone.
9. Pocket, For Reading
I do like reading on my phone, but I get articles from different websites and apps. I like to use Pocket as a way to organize it all. I know how to work the app so I don’t need to deal with ads or popups or weird scrolling and things like that. If I find an article I can save it for later in Pocket and read it during scheduled reading time.
10. Keyboard Shortcuts
This is one I’m getting used to. It’s pretty amazing how often you will type the same words and you can setup shortcuts to make it more efficient to type whether in an email or text or whatever.
Phones have been great for our lives. We’re more connected with each other and with information than ever before. But if we’re not careful the phone can drag us down as well. So it’s good to have a few hacks and restrictions with our phone use so we’re getting the most out of them without dragging us down in other ways.