What I learned from curbing smartphone distractions

This post summarizes tactics I have used to minimize smartphone distractions. These strategies help improve focus and mental well-being.

  1. Grayscale
  2. Block sites
  3. Delete apps
  4. Don’t sleep with it
  5. Timer WiFi
  6. Wear a watch
  7. Turn off notifications
  8. Do something else first

Grayscale

iPhone has an option to disable display colors. This makes everything (all apps) gray white or black. Addicting apps become much less visually stimulating as a result. The downside is using some apps becomes difficult. For example Yelp ratings are hard to distinguish because the two-toned red squares blend together. Gogray.today is working on a solution which excludes chosen apps from the color filter.

The iPhone setting is found in Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters

colorfilters

Restrict Web Sites

If you are unhappy with how much time you spend on a given website, you can restrict it and break the habit. The restrictions work for Safari, and Chrome apps. You won’t be able to browse to the site unless you go and remove the restriction.

Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content > Websites > Never Allow > Add a Website…

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Remove Apps

If you restricted a website that also has its own app (e.g. all popular social media platforms) you will want to remove the apps to break the habits of checking those.

Recently I deleted my email client app. I had a bad habit of checking my inbox immediately after waking up and dozens of times throughout the day. I might be a little out of date on discussions, but I still have calendar access. So far so good!

Don’t Sleep Near Your Phone

Leave your phone in another room when you go to bed. This way you aren’t tempted to pick it up when waking up in the middle of the night or the morning. Use a watch or alarm clock if you need one.

Put a timer on your WiFi

If you have a habit going to bed late because of the internet, use a timer. You can get a $5-$10 electrical outlet timer from a hardware store. These can we set up to turn off the power for set intervals. Set it to power down your internet modem/access point upon your sleep deadline. It will keep you in check even if you really want to keep binging Netflix. And set it to power on a little bit after you wake up and start the day. This way you can get quality sleep and start the day on the right foot.

Wear a watch to keep track of time

It’s amazing how many times per day we busy people check the time.  Simply wear a watch so you don’t have to always have your phone in your pocket. This way you can stay on schedule even when unplugging for a while.

Turn off app notifications

By default, most apps want (in every possible way) to notify us and get our attention. Always start with saying no. Then, add in minimal notifications for the apps you care about. iPhone has different types of notifications, too. Badges, sounds, banners. A nice minimal set up is to only allow notifications in history. This setting will not allow distracting pop-ups. Experiment to find what works best for you.

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Do Something Else First

It’s tempting to grab your phone first thing in the morning. Try not to do this because it starts your day off poorly, it clutters your mind. Do the rest of your routine first, your emails and other stuff can wait.


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Do smart phones make stupid humans?

I like to observe how people act and think about why. Smart phones have become pervasive enough to change human behavior. What are the consequences?


Do smart phones make stupid humans?

Have you ever wondered if smart phones make us stupid? Now we have an answer and we know how stupid they make us. “Even if you’re not using it, just having your smartphone on your desk reduces your working memory capacity by 10% and fluid intelligence by 5%.” Adam Grant shared this study via this LinkedIn post.

The solution is simple: keep it in your pants, out of sight. Leave your phone in another room.


If a smart phone sabotages it’ owner, what do they do to everyone else in the room?

Simon Sinek has something interested to say about this topic. Placing your smartphone on the table at a meeting sends a signal to everyone in the room “you’re just not that important to me.” When the phone is face up, every notification lights up the screen and draws attention. When it’s face down, notification vibrations trigger nearby attendees to check their devices.


Does social media get in the way of social bonding?

You might feel sad when you see a family at dinner staring at jeejahs and not engaged in conversation. Consider an alternate point of view from Gary Vaynerchuck: smartphones didn’t create this problem. The old way to endure failure-to-connect meant drowning in awkward silence. The option to stick the nose in social media means those silences suck a little less.


How can attention spans be lengthened?

There was a time when the hat rack was a symbol of transition from public to private space. When entering the private space, one was expected to hang up their hat. Now, imagine docking smartphones in the charging rack upon entering a pricate space.  This is a great way to remove a huge source of distraction from the meeting and keep everyone engaged.


I think we are all still learning ‘proper’ smartphone etiquette, as we must do for inventions that change the way we live and work. Slowly people settle on unspoken rules of when and where putting it on the table is appropriate or inappropriate.


Thank you for reading!

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