Technology has a reputation for being as much a curse as it is a gift. Sure it can expedite actions at the tap of a finger. And there is a plethora of opportunity and connectivity in our pockets at all times. Yes, we can perform a task that with one tap that, pre-smartphone, would have required 5 times the effort. But with great power comes great responsibility.
This kind of pocket-sized power is dangerous left unbridled. We can send off emails, design prototypes, draft articles in the palm of our hand. Or we can mindlessly spend hours bingeing on social media, addictive games or Netflix.
We resort to our phones in every idle moment. Whether in an awkward situation or surrounded by friends with great conversation, most of us are culprits of the stolen glance at our glowing screens. This reality may sound bleak—a bunch of screen zombies who can hardly communicate with other humans without their glowing crutch to fill every potential vacant moment. But this is only the reality for those who engage with their devices passively, worshipping every content stream and notification as the holy savior from their boredom.
A person who takes an active role, who recognizes their own personal accountability, can take active control in their use of technology. They know that technology can empower you or impede you. It can make you productive or keep you stagnant. The possibilities are endless, both good and bad. So harnessing these possibilities for good may require a strategy.
Below are some tips for using technology for productivity
Making sure you have apps that facilitate your productivity is key to making sure that technology is working for you.
“There is an app for that,” right? You will find no shortage of options in the app store. And they get more intuitive and powerful by the minute. Calendars, teamwork, learning, finance, time management, automation systems. There is a whole world beyond Temple Run and Instagram.
Find apps that are applicable to your work. A graphic designer equipped with a sketching app may be crucial in capturing ideas when away from the computer. If a photographer can professionally edit pictures at the tap of a finger, it can feel like a superpower. If you blog, not only are there a million writing apps, but it is also likely that your blog host has some sort of app to help you manage your content on the go. You can quite literally get a college-quality education right on your phone with the incredible selection of classes available.
Don’t be an app hoarder. If you haven’t opened Temple Run in 3 years, just delete it.
Don’t prioritize time wasters and procrastination vacuums. When you know you are addicted to the trendy game of the moment, try deleting it or burying it in the back of a folder.
Try to minimize any clutter or excess. If you have two apps that do the same thing, delete the one that is disposable. If you have a calendar app that logs your to-dos, you may not need the to-do list app too.
Notifications can be one of the worst attention derailments. Every time we see our screens light up, we are immediately distracted. Even a stolen glance can throw your flow off or send you down a wormhole of distraction.
It may seem innocent enough to respond quickly to that text message, but how many times have you found your simple response turns into a Facebook blackhole you don’t emerge from for two hours?
Choose your notifications wisely, and when possible, silence them altogether. I made sure to completely deactivate any notifications that were not helpful. The only notifications I get now are important reminders, alarms or timers that act as action cues for a productive day.
Learn the times of day that you are most productive and schedule your phone to be on Do Not Disturb. Undivided attention is hard to come by these days so when you have it, you need to make it last.
Put some strategy into what you allow on your devices and where you allow it to be.
Treat your screen like a workspace. What good is a workspace that is cluttered and chaotic? Think of how you organize your desk. You may have a hole punch that you rarely use so, therefore, keep on the other side of the room. But if you frequently write, you probably have your notebook and pencil within arm’s reach.
Approach your apps in the same way. You want to be able to access the most important apps the most, so make them the easiest to get to. Create a productive homepage and shove the distractions in a faraway place. Delete the items that either clutter your screen or frequently distract you. Your screen is precious real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. Place the most productive apps in your eye’s first line of view. Put less productive items in places that you mind has to work a bit harder to find.
If you know that there is a distracting app that you click out of habit, try to make it harder to get to. We often open certain apps on autopilot because it has a prime location. Many times just seeing the app is enough to dull our sense to autopilot, and before we know it, we’ve opened the app unconsciously. I personally had to bury Instagram in the back of one of my app folders because it became so second nature. I’d unlock my phone to check the weather and end up on Instragram. And then I’d likely end up scrolling for so long that by the time I get off, I forget why I opened my phone in the first place.
Effective organization helps make your autopilot actions constructive.
Plan distraction |
Schedule your phone for work and play.
It is not completely terrible to use your phone for fun. Sometimes your brain just needs a break. In fact, there are many cases in which procrastination and distraction can be rewarding. But you have to make sure that you are not letting the distraction take control.
When you are getting distracted, set a timer to make sure you don’t look up 3 hours later from a Facebook stalking spiral. A timer will help your mind trigger transition back to another thought.
You can get technology fatigue that exhausts you emotionally, mentally and physically. Try trading screens for paper sometimes. Try reading a physical book or writing in a journal rather than Evernote. The hands-on essence of handwriting helps your mind to retain that information better.
You can’t treat your phone like a brain, stashing information in folders or read-laters or bookmarks. We overload ourselves with content, saturating our consumption to the point of futility.
It is equivalent to cleaning your room by shoving everything under the bed. It looks good right until you need something and can’t find it. Or your forget about it completely until you stumble upon it accidentally.
Rely on your own memory and intelligence sometimes. It is your best shortcut.
What methods do you use to harness your technology for productivity?