I’ve heard more times than I’d like to count that our smartphones only decrease our productivity in the long run. Especially for students, many people say that having our phones even in the same room with us keeps us distracted and unable to live our best lives.
Well, I’m here to disagree with that.
Yes, smartphones can be distracting. I’ve clocked more than my share of hours on Pinterest when I should have been doing something else, and scrolling through Facebook doesn’t seem to help me get on with my daily chores. But that doesn’t mean that our smart phones are the source of the problem.
In fact, there are ways smartphones can really help us get more done with our lives, while also giving us time for more of what we actually enjoy doing. Here are some of the ways I use my smart phone to get better productivity in less time.
1. Figure Out What You Can Do More Efficiently
First things first: what do you want to do? In starting out this productivity exploration, I wrote down a list of the things I wanted to do more of in my every day life. Here are just a few:
- Read more
- Drink more water
- Keep track of daily tasks
- Keep up with fitness and homework
- Keep track of spending and save money
Then I did a search on the internet and my device’s app store to see what was on the market for my needs. As it turns out, there are quite a lot of people out there who want the same things I do, and therefore, there’s a market.
2. Determine What Apps Work For You
I’m a BIG fan of free apps. Usually, an app that says “in-app purchases” is a huge turnoff, especially because one of the major things on my list is to save money. What I learned is that while a lot of the big apps require you to pay a monthly subscription, others either don’t or have free versions which work perfectly well.
My personal favorites are:
- Leio. This app is a reading tracker that has a pretty good free version. If you really like it (I did) you can upgrade for a small fee. It’s a one-time deal and doesn’t require a monthly subscription.
- Drink Water Aquarium. This app is so simple it is almost a joke, yet I love it! You can set water intake goals and log in your progress throughout the day. The visual is a cute little fish tank which fills up as you drink your water. It’s simple, but surprisingly compelling.
- Habitica. This app is a little more out there – but hear me out. Through Habitica, you create a little avatar that goes on adventures. You make your to-do list, and as you complete items, your avatar gains experience points, vanquishes monsters, and levels up! The best part is, you can set difficulty levels and play with a host of other features which help boost your XP and allow you to progress through your life as you would any role-playing game.
- Runtastic. This app is another one which offers in-app purchases, and though I was skeptical at first, my sister eventually persuaded me to try it. What do ya know! It’s really great for tracking mileage (I love to run) and helps you figure out your speed, distance, and other important factors in your workout routine. The free version works just fine for me, although you can upgrade with a monthly subscription.
There are many other apps out there, and it may take some experimenting to figure out what works for you. If you’re into saving money like I am, see if your bank has an app which will let you monitor your account. I find that this is the easiest way to keep track of my finances, health, and habits as I go throughout my week.
(For more details on these apps and others you may like, check out this post)
3. Minimize Distracting Apps
That being said, there are plenty of things about our smart phones which are pretty distracting. Pinterest is my personal weakness. It’s important to understand, when using our phones, what will and won’t keep us from getting more done.
As a rule, when I download an app, I turn off notifications just as a starting point. Unless it becomes vital that I get a message from something (like a text, and even that is usually on vibrate) I don’t want widgets and notifications popping up on my screen. If I’m interested, I’ll go and find them myself.
You can go to the extreme and delete apps for Twitter, Facebook, and other such networks (I did for the most part, but Pinterest still haunts me and I have separation anxiety so it’s still on my phone) but this doesn’t have to be the case. A way to make sure you stay on task is to keep your phone on Airplane mode while doing work that requires concentration, or even setting timers on your phone during which period you WILL NOT check messages, email, or social media.
4. Learn the Tricks of Your Smart Phone
Not all devices are made equal! There are many things a phone can and cannot do, and it’s important to keep that in mind when out there hunting for hacks to help you use your devices to your advantage. I prefer apple products, so I know a lot about them. However, I am not the sole authority and there may be better references out there for other platforms.
There are some really great features for smart phones (such as Airplane mode, as I’ve already mentioned) and there are some really not-so-great ones. The important thing is that you know where they are. Your phone cannot help you if you don’t know how to use it.
5. Let It Help You
Last but not least, let your phone do the work. If you’re a person who has to write down to-do lists, then write down to-do lists. But maybe your phone can help you get better sleep at night (again, check out my post here) or can remind you to take the trash out. Maybe it has features that you can use, but don’t work for you personally. That’s okay!
What I want to warn against is spending money on a device (and we all know they aren’t cheap) and not using it to its full potential. That’s like buying a stove and only using it as a storage rack for pots and pans. You can do so much more!
But most of all, have fun with it. I go through phases of really loving certain apps, not using them for a while, finding new ones, and then returning to the old ones I used to love. And that’s okay! Just make sure you aren’t limiting yourself by only sticking to one kind of process when it comes to using your smart phone.
Good luck with your new tips, and get busy!
What are your favorite ways to use your phone? Any tips for me? I’d love to hear from you!