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Optimizing the iPhone for productivity

Published July 26, 2022

    In this post, I will show you how I have optimized my phone to have more focus and ultimately a more healthy relationship with my phone. Along the way, I will show you 5 tips to have a healthy balance with your phone

    Many videos talk about decluttering your phone, and I am in favor of this, but ultimately for a different reason. Everything in your life is vying for your attention, and your phone likely most of all. A big point of emphasis with my iPhone is making it as much of a distraction free tool as it can be. For that reason, aside from the dock, my Home Screen only has 6 apps on it.

    Show’s the iPhone on Screen w/ the Dock illuminated. There’s nothing too crazy on the dock

    # 1. Out of sight, out of mind — Intentionality

    I am a big proponent of out of sight, out of mind. My goal is to have intention when I pick up my iPhone. I don’t uninstall distracting apps from my phone, I just make it where my brain has to have intention to open that app. If I want to open Reddit, I’m going to search for it. I introduce just that little bit of friction so that I won’t get pulled into an addictive open just because I unlocked my phone.

    # 2. Add a little friction

    For some apps, hiding the icon on your home screen may not be enough, the ones I have to watch out for are Twitter and Reddit. For those apps, you might want to check out One Sec. It’s an app you install on your iPhone and with a little setup it will add a little friction to opening those apps that you can’t quite seem to get away from. It gives you a moment to pause and think, does this app align with my goals? The other feature that One Sec has, is the ability to send you a notification if you are still in the app after a certain period of time. So if you are still using the app after say 5 minutes, it will give you a notification in hopes that it will pull you out of the Matrix. You can get 15% off One Sec by using this link. Alternatively, you can use iOS Shortcuts to set a 5-minute timer when you open those addictive apps. That is why I have a clock on my home screen so that I can cancel that timer when I leave. If you’re curious about how you can set up this shortcut for yourself, let me know down in the comments and I can put up a video on how to do that.

    # 3. Give yourself more rewarding distractions

    We can’t be distraction free all the time, and for that I put some good distractions at arms reach, if I just need a break from what I’m doing. For me, this is Readwise and their new RSS+Read-it-later app Reader. So if I just need a break instead of getting pulled into the infinity pool which is Twitter, I can review some key highlights from books or articles I’ve read, or read an article I have saved for later. It is like putting healthy snacks out in case you get hungry.

    # 4. Turn off notifications

    I shouldn’t have to say this, but for those 9 people out there who still have notifications enabled on their iPhone, please go turn them off. This is the equivalent of signing yourself up for spam phone calls in the modern age. The only real exception I have to this rule is my car and my front doorbell. Aside from that, my notifications are off. While we’re on the topic of notifications, I highly recommend that you enable iOS’s new * Focus Mode* feature. It lets you filter out messages, phone calls and notifications so that you only get important ones while enabled. I have this set up to turn on automatically at 9am when I start my workday. It then runs until noon, turns off for an hour for lunch and then comes back from 1pm to 5pm.

    # 5. Avoid using your phone during high productivity periods

    For me, that’s in the morning before work. I have an hour or so that I can do something meaningful with before the workday starts, but if I reach for my iPhone that hour is likely gone. For that reason, I no longer us my iPhone as an alarm clock. I recently bought the Loftie alarm clock and it has given me my mornings back by not having my iPhone be the first thing I’m greeted with in the morning. It allows you to avoid the news and twitter and set the tone you want for your day.

    # 6. Make your phone less desirable at rest

    This goes back to the your phone is a magnet for your attention. If you put a picture of your partner or your child on lock screen of your phone you are just pulling yourself back into. Its going to suck you back in and drain your willpower. For me I set my background to a black image. That does two things, it makes it less likely I’m going to get pulled in and it saves me some battery. As long as you have an iPhone with an OLED screen you save battery by having a black background image because the pixels only have to illuminate when there is color to display. The other thing you can do is set you phone to be grayscale so that the bright colors don’t pull you in. It’s pretty impractical to leave it in grayscale all of the time, so I have an accessibility shortcut set up where I triple tap the lock button to toggle between grayscale and color. This lets me see the colors of a photo I just took, but not have the home screen be colored while at rest.

    # 7. Make the iPhone a great capture tool

    I’m trying out this new app Quick Capture. Quick gives you a quick way to jot down a quick note either by hand, photo or verbally. Think of it like Drafts, but it supports dictation.

    • Often times when I’m trying to quick capture something I want it to go into my task manager. In my case, Akiflow. Show the double tap to write things and triple tap to dictate.