Distraction Free Phones - How to Boost Your Productivity and Add Hours to Your Day

Time. There never seems to be enough in a day.  How often do we use the excuse, "If I had more time I would..." or "I didn't have time to do..."?  It always seems there is more we hoped to accomplish in any given day.  How valuable would it be to have a few extra hours each day?

My Journey

Recently, I've been on a journey of self-enlightenment.  Instead of spending my free hours playing video games, watching tech reviews on YouTube, or scrolling through FaceBook, I stumbled across a platform called Notion.  From there, I went down the rabbit hole of productivity, time management, self-reflection and how to track all of this in one system (yes, Notion).  The biggest takeaway from what I've learned, that has also provided immediate benefit, is what I want to share today.

First off, I'd like to stress that I'm not a guru in this domain.  In fact, as of this writing, I'm only a couple weeks into this journey.  However, as a newcomer, I can provide a unique lens to this world.  While you can (and should) search online for the true gurus in this field, my story is much like yours.  I'm new to this and still learning every day.  I'm still looking to find what works for me and what does not, but there is one action I took that has made all the difference in the world.

How to Dumb Down your Smart Phone

About a week ago, I put into practice the idea of a distraction free iPhone (also works on Android).  I got this idea from the book Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.  I admit that I didn't implement 100% of what could be done here; but what I have done has freed up countless time in my day and allowed me to use that new found free time to further my studies on these topics and spend more time engaging with my family.

What is a distraction free phone?  Well, it's a phone.  It's not a computer in your pocket, filled to the brim with life sucking distractions.  The first thing I did was go through my countless pages of apps and deleted everything I never used.  After that, I started to think of what I do most on the phone.  Like most people, talking was at the bottom of the list.  Playing games, social media, watching YouTube, reading the news; that is where my day was spent.

I started with the games (iOS 14 makes this process easy by grouping your apps in the App Library) and deleted every single one from my iPhone.  Apps I paid for, apps I enjoyed, apps that gave me social interaction with friends I made online. All of them were deleted.

Next on the list, social media.  When I started paying attention to how many times I grabbed my phone and opened FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram, just to refresh the homepage in case anything new was posted, I realized how I was doing it on autopilot.  One by one each of them were removed.

Entertainment was next on the chopping block.  Besides YouTube, I really didn't watch much on my phone, but I had them all downloaded and ready to go.  YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, HBO Max. Gone.

The iPhone is great at keeping you in the loop on the latest news stories.  Whether it is world events, politics or sports, there are tons of apps out there for you and countless notifications that you receive to let you know what football player isn't starting this weekend or what Meghan and Harry are up to.  I was surprised how may applications I had on my iPhone that fell under this category and removed them one by one.

Take it One Step Further

To truly make a distraction free phone, you can take it a step further.  The authors of Make Time suggest deleting all email applications and your internet browser.  Personally, I wasn't ready to go that far.  However, I did make one change to ensure that I wasn't tempted to open Gmail every time I grabbed my phone.

For every application I still had on my phone (not many), I went into the notification settings and turned all notifications off.  For applications like Google Calendar and Weather, I left the notifications on, as I want reminders of upcoming events and any alerts for severe weather.  But for applications like mail, Apple News (I should delete this as well), Google Classroom (for the kids); all notifications were turned off.  When I open my homepage, I still have Gmail, but without the red circle telling me how many unread items are in my inbox.

My Current Homepage

What to Expect the First Few Days

It does take some self-control to not open Gmail to see if anything came through.  As it also does to not grab the phone, jump on the internet and spend an hour clicking through Wikipedia.  However, as each day went on, I found myself with less and less to do on my phone.

Habitually, I would grab the phone whenever it wasn't in my hands.  But once unlocked, there was now nothing there for me to do.  I would stare at my homepage for a minute and put the phone down.  Within seconds, I had the phone in my hand and repeated the same cycle.  After a few days, I was only using the phone when I had to send a text or make a phone call.  The phone was no longer attached to my hip (literally) all day long.

Free Hours Added to Your Day

The amount of time this has freed up is significant.  I wish there was a way to view historical trends in Screen Time, but as of this writing, my daily average usage is down 72%!  I went from over five hours a day on my phone to under one hour a day (yesterday was a whole 32 minutes)!

Think about that for a minute.  A couple weeks ago, I was spending over five hours on my phone.  Yesterday it was 32 minutes.  Granted, I was probably multi-tasking for most of those five hours.  Playing with the kids, eating dinner, watching TV; but now I have almost five hours of my life to dedicate to those activities that matter most to me.  When I'm playing with my kids, they have my entire focus and attention.

Your mileage may vary, but according to eMarketer, the average person spends three hours and six minutes on their phone per day.  Meaning, on average, anyone who implements this simple change can magically add over two hours of free time to every day!

Staying in the Loop

This doesn't mean I don't check social media, or the news, or play an occasional game.  However, these activities are planned out and are only done using my computer.  In the morning, during lunch, and in the evening, I'll quickly check Gmail, Twitter, FaceBook, CNN, ESPN, YouTube, etc. As time goes on, I'm finding that the less I check them, the less I want to check them.  And the amount of time I spend on each site seems to be decreasing each day.

With all this new found time, I've been able to spend more time learning, reading, writing (this is the first article I've ever attempted to write) and truly engaging with my family.  I used to always say I didn't have enough time to do things.  Now, I'm finding I have all the time in the world for what matters most to me.

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