I recently erased and reset my iPhone, so I could start with a clean install. My home screen was cluttered with unused apps, my battery was being drained from app background activity, and I received dozens of useless notifications every day.
I found myself waking up in the morning and mindlessly checking notifications from my phone. The screen prompts and red badges made me feel like I was missing something important.
Throughout the day my phone would buzz or ding with trivial notifications… “See these photos from 2015”, “@SportsCenter just posted a new tweet”, “Somebody is interested in an event in Austin tomorrow”.
None of this “breaking news” deserved my immediate attention. What’s worse is that it would often suck me in to a 5, 10, or 15 minute session with the app, taking me away from whatever I was previously focused on.
I recently read that it can take up to 25 minutes to refocus on a task once you’ve been distracted. When I considered the time lost in the app, and the time to get refocused, I figured I was losing between 5-30 minutes every time I checked notifications on my phone. This time adds up fast.
Diagnosing the Problem
Apple makes it easy to see how much time you’re spending in an app. To see how many minutes you’ve spent in each app go to Settings > Battery > Battery Usage. Toggle the view to show app screen time by clicking the clock icon on the right.
Understanding where you spend your time is the first step to eliminating distractions. Any app that’s taking more than a few hours of your week should be looked at with a critical eye. People often make excuses that they don’t have enough time, but when they start looking at where they’re spending time, they realize they have more than they think.
3 Simple Tips to Get Time Back from Your Phone
- Consider removing social media apps – These apps are some of the biggest time robbers. It’s easy to get sucked in with a notification, then spend the next 15-30 minutes looking at your feed. I still check social media on my phone, but I do it during dead time (using a mobile web browser). Now I don’t get pinged with notifications, or distracted while working on higher value tasks.
- Customize your notifications – By default, most apps want to send you notifications, so you spend more time with them. This can quickly lead to notification inundation and wasted time. Rather than accept the default notifications (Badges, Sounds, and Banners) consider customizing (or turning off) notifications for each app. For example, you may want to consider turning off all notifications for social/entertainment apps, leave only Badges on for email and other productivity apps, and keep all notifications on for text messages and phone.
- Put your phone in do not disturb mode – When I’m writing, analyzing, or doing other creative tasks that require more brain power and concentration, I put my phone in do not disturb (DND). When I’m DND mode only close family, friends, and co-workers can get through to me.
I’ve been making a concerted effort for the last 30 days to eliminate distractions and maximize productivity. By following these tips I find myself more focused and relaxed than I have in a long time. I’m getting more done in less time. I’m also more in the moment when I’m with my family or friends.
Time is the only fixed asset we have. Once it’s gone, we can never get it back. Make the most of your time by eliminating phone distractions.