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Stop the madness: Tips for outsmarting your smartphone

February 20, 2012

texting, by PictureYouth

I’m worried about you. Your phone has gained such a stranglehold on you that you’re paying more attention to it than the world around you.

It’s happened while we were sharing a meal, or talking at a mixer, or any time its beeping pulled you away.

Can I have your full, undivided attention for 5 minutes? Maybe I can help.

In studying Jennifer Warren and her 48 hours divorced from her iPhone, I realized that some of you may have the same concerns. You might miss a text. You’re expected to check email for work. You haven’t checked Facebook in the last hour.

The information explosion has conditioned us to mainline data as though we can’t live without it. We can, we should. Our clarity and our focus depends on it.

(I don’t buy the multitasking argument, by the way. It’s bunk, and studies have proven it.)

You can escape from your smartphone yolk. It’s not nearly as difficult as you think with these time management tips.

1. Go cold turkey. To prove to yourself that going without a phone won’t kill you, surrender your phone to a family member or a friend for 48 hours. It’s how we set up our experiment, and it will show you just how productive you can be without that one constant distraction.

2. Limit your email checking to once or twice a day. Email is the to-do list that others write for you. It is a barrage of questions, requests, orders and junk. Tim Ferriss suggests checking only once a day, asking people to call you if it’s an emergency or requires live interaction. How many problems sent via email seemingly solve themselves if left alone?

For more on managing email, see “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Ferriss and “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. [aff. links]

3. Turn off all notifications. My iPhone only buzzes if it’s a call, a text message, a Facebook message or a Twitter direct message. That’s it. Only the important stuff (important to me) gets through. To shake your Pavlovian instinct to grab the phone each time it beeps, turn off the notifications for social media. Also, set the phone to beep based on sender: Maybe you set it so that only text messages and calls from your boss and your spouse (sometimes one and the same) beep, while the rest silently are logged on your device.

4. Get a free Google Voice number. If you’ve never tried Google Voice, you’re in for a treat. This free service transcribes voicemails and sends them as text messages to your phone, very handy when you’re in a meeting. It routes calls based on your preferences: Customer calls could ring your cell and desk phone, family calls could ring your cell and home phone. You can screen calls. You can listen in on voicemail and take the call. It’s a gatekeeper that lets through important calls and sends the rest to voicemail. Sign up today.

5. Be deliberate about your social media. Limit your Twitter and Facebook to 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes at day’s end. Prune your friends and followers regularly. If you know of a phone app that locks out sites and apps for preset periods of time (RescueTime does this for computers), let me know in the comments.

You have to retrain yourself to use your phone as needed. You have to train others to contact you appropriately. But once you do, you’ll find has once again become a trusted assistant and not an unrelenting taskmaster.

Photo: PictureYouth (CC)

How do you manage your time with your smartphone? Share your tips in the comments, please.

• • •

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2012 2:03 pm

    There’s this app on Google Chrome called Stay Focused. It’s great! You can set it so that you can’t visit certain sites during set times and you can also set it to where it makes you go through challenge questions in order to change the settings.

    • February 26, 2012 11:30 pm

      Good tip. I wonder if a similar app exists for iPhone and Android.

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