I don’t understand how my parents live with the TV constantly on.
Like many of my peers, I’ve grown accustomed to living without cable TV running in the background. It’s become so normal for me that when I find myself somewhere with a TV constantly on, it’s distracting and I have trouble focusing. Maybe you can relate.
This is the same way I feel when I look at most people’s smart phones. Every minute there’s a different notification, pop-up or ding, and almost all of it is an unnecessary distraction.
I think to myself “doesn’t this drive them crazy”? But it doesn’t.
In fact, much like addicted TV watchers, most people are living with so many distractions on their phone that they have no idea what it would be like to live differently.
Well my friends, I’m here from the future to tell you — it’s wonderful.
It’s taken a bit of work and experimenting, but I’m excited to share a few of the ways I’ve optimized my smart phone for a clear mind and an organized life.
Note: I’m going to speak about this in terms of the iPhone, but I imagine many of this can also apply to Android phones as well.
Additional Note: For the competitive minimalists out there who don’t have a phone — you win, I surrender!
1. I Deleted the Facebook App
I’m addicted to Facebook. What’s also true is that Facebook is by far my biggest resource for promoting my work, staying in touch with people and generally being a social person so at this point not being on it is really not an option.
I really thought about how I waste the most time on Facebook. When do I go on it when I don’t need to? Why do I stay on it too long?
One of the things I noticed was I use Facebook as an escape, so if I was bored, I would whip out my phone and check to see if I had any notifications, if not I would scroll through the news feed. This almost always created unnecessary stress. Not only is checking Facebook a terrible way to escape and unwind, but it almost always led to me checking Facebook way too often and never really enjoying the experience.
Thanks to the fact that Facebook has a separate messenger app, I decided to delete the Facebook app from my phone completely, and to just check it on my laptop. This has made a huge difference for a few reasons.
Reason #1: I check Facebook far less than I used to, which means when I do check it there is actually stuff for me to do (and it’s enjoyable), versus mindlessly scrolling through the news feed.
Reason #2: It’s nicer to check Facebook on my laptop. I get to use a big screen, keyboard and mouse, versus a tiny little iPhone screen and my thumbs.
Now, there are certainly times when I need to check Facebook, and what I do is just use my browser. The reason that works is the user experience for the mobile version of Facebook on the browser isn’t as nice, in fact I find it a bit annoying, especially after using the app. That’s a good thing! It makes me get on, find what I need and get off.
I don’t use Twitter or Instagram much, but this can apply to them as well. They both have desktop versions.
2. I Stopped Checking Email on my Phone
There are a few reasons for this.
Reason #1: Using email on your phone is slow and annoying, while checking it and typing on a full size keyboard is much faster.
Reason #2: It trains you (and your friends or co-workers) to not have email be used for something that’s urgent. For urgent needs, I encourage my friends and co-workers to call or text me.
Just like with social media, I allow my self to check email on a mobile browser on my phone when needed, but that process is such a pain that I’ll only do it if I absolutely need to, and it won’t take any more time than it has to.
3. I Only Allow Notifications from Specific Apps
In case you haven’t noticed, the default setting for most of the apps you buy is allowing them to interrupt you whenever they want. For me, that’s totally unacceptable.
I’ve gone through all the apps on my phone and only allowed notifications for the ones I absolutely need. For example — Lyft I need, but Instagram I don’t.
It may seem strange to not have so many apps vying for your attention but remember the example of the people who have the TV on throughout the day — you don’t notice how much head space it’s taking up.
Companies know that the best part about having their mobile app on your phone is the ability to interrupt you whenever they want, so this will always be an issue unless you specifically decide to not accept the default settings.
4. I Use Keyboard Shortcuts
This is a quick one but really useful.
iPhone has something called “text replacement” and you can find it by going to settings -> general -> keyboards -> text replacement. It will bring you here.
What I’ve done is taken common things I write like my address, phone number and email address and made them shortcuts. So for example if I’m writing my phone number to someone all I have to do is type “ph” and it will automatically fill in the number.
5. I Disconnected My Voicemail
At some point I realized that most of my voicemails were companies spamming me, so I decided to shut it off. Anyone that needs to get a hold of me is certainly creative enough to either text me or email me, so it served as a nice filter for people (mostly companies) that I didn’t want to hear from.
I have AT&T and I had to call them to do this, but I believe other providers have a way to do it right from your phone. Just google it and you’ll find out.
6. I Text Through My Computer
When I’m on my laptop and I receive a text, I always answer it through my laptop. It’s much faster than typing on the phone.
Many of you probably have this set up already, but check to see if you get text messages as well as iMessages (green and blue). It won’t automatically set up text messages (texts from non-iPhone users) but you can do that in the settings. Read about it here.
7. Set Alarms to Remember Things
I don’t try and remember anything.
Seriously. I don’t believe that’s what my mind is best used for, so I always write things down and set reminders. I create a system that allows me to relax and know that I’ll get alerted when I need to do something timely.
To do this, I use the alarms on my phone. For example, if I need to call someone tomorrow I won’t try and remember it, I’ll simply go to my phone and set an alarm that says “call ____”. To set an alarm for more than a day in advance I’ll use the feature that allows me to set alarms every week, so for example if it’s Friday and I want to set alarm for Tuesday to call my sister Kara it might look like this.
I hope you enjoyed these tips. Do you have any ways you reduce distractions or optimize your phone? Let me know by posting a comment on the Facebook thread.