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How to optimize your phone for
maximum productivity

According to Apple, the average iPhone user unlocks their phone 80 times a day1 — roughly once every 20 waking minutes — that's too many times.

Distractions are damaging to productivity, and not just because you're slacking off. Switching between tasks is detrimental to your performance.2 Cal Newport sums it up nicely in his book Deep Work:

To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.3

This kind of focused work is increasingly rare, and smartphones are one of the reasons why. They're designed to steal our attention—they distract by stealth, just having one nearby reduces our ability to get stuff done.4

So, probably the best way to optimize your phone is to throw it in the sea — but it was expensive and your family would worry, so here's what you can do instead:

Note — The listed instructions are for iPhone only. Settings for Android differ between devices.

Top Three Tips

These three interventions alone, will significantly reduce smart phone distractions:

Delete all social media and games

You can always download them again should you desperately want them. If you need convincing that you should delete your social media, read Why you should quit social media.

Turn off notifications, unless they're from humans

Incredibly, it has become normal to allow businesses access to our attention 24/7. This is hugely detrimental to productivity and causes stress.

You should decide when you want to use a service, not the other way round. Turn off notifications unless they're from humans you have meaningful relationships with.

Settings → Notifications

Put all your apps in one folder

It's far too easy to get sucked into your phone—without a conscious thought, you find yourself scrolling through apps, unable to remember why you looked at it in the first place.

Placing all of your apps in one folder, and placing that folder off the home screen, forces you to pick an app by typing in the search bar. This intervention stops mindless phone use and builds the healthy habit of consciously choosing your actions.

Minor Tweaks

Turn on greyscale

Using bright colors is one way your phone steals your attention — notifications are an alarming red — colorful app icons draw you in like a moth to a flame.

The Center for Humane Technology suggests turning your phone grayscale to counteract this.5

Settings → General → Accessibility → Accessibility Shortcut → Color Filters
This allows you to switch between grayscale and color by triple clicking the home button.

Turn off ambiguous vibrations

Not knowing which app is notifying you impels you to check your phone, even if it's something you'd happily ignore. Turning off vibrate removes the mystery and allows you to get on with work.

Settings → Sounds & Haptics → Vibrate
Turn off both ‘Vibrate on Ring’ and ‘Vibrate on Silent’

Turn off ‘raise to wake’

By default, raising an iPhone lights up the screen, making it that little bit easier to get sucked in. Turning off ‘raise to wake’ creates an extra barrier between you and wasted hours casually browsing nothing.

Settings → Display & Brightness → Raise to Wake

Turn on Night Shift

Using your phone at night is harmful to your sleep. This is usually blamed on blue light emitted from the screen. It tricks your body into thinking it's daytime and keeps you awake. Turning on Night Shift removes some of that blue light and dims the screen.

Although there's no consensus on how harmful blue light is to sleep, dimming the brightness does seem to help.6

Settings → Display & Brightness → Night Shift → Scheduled
Schedule ‘night shift’ to turn on in the evening.

If you have any tips you'd like to add, or any feedback at all, don't hesitate to send an email to prodtodolist@gmail.com
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