Reading Time: 4 minutes

Updated 9/4/18

You probably know that my work involves helping people discover attention management as the new path to productivity. One of the ways to control your attention is to control your technology, so I thought I would share some of those tips here.

First, remember,  Just because you have a phone, doesn’t mean it has to be on.  Just because it’s on, doesn’t mean you have to answer it if it rings.  The same goes for email on your phone.  In fact, you can have all the advantages of a smartphone without email.  It’s so handy to have all of the other features available, particularly on an iPhone because there are so many.  But the fact remains, YOU can be in control.  In fact, that’s the secret to productivity.  Mastering control over the details of your life (including the technology they come in on) so that they don’t control you.

So let me share some details about the way I use my iPhone apps in a typical day.  It’s a lot.  But it’s for MY convenience, not other people’s.  Everything mentioned below is done with no other technology besides the iPhone Apps I’ve loaded, with the exception of my external portable speaker.

I’m often reading something, or listening to something (like Buddhify), on my iPhone before I go to bed in the evening, so it’s usually on my nightstand overnight.  However, it’s usually off, unless I’m out of town, at which point I put it in flight mode (no calls in the middle of the night) and then set the alarm (using SleepCycle) to “intelligently wake me.”  When I wake in the morning, I’ll usually turn it on, check my calendar for the day’s appointments, check the weather (both help me decide what to wear), and then I’ll usually check my Twitter feed using the “list” feature of the Twitter app.  All of that takes me less than five minutes.  If there is a link to an article from Twitter that I think I might find interesting, I add it to my Pocket using the browser extension in the browser app, so that I can read it later.

Then my phone comes with me, where I connect it to a portable external speaker so that I can listen to music, an audio book, or a podcast while I shower and dig through my closet to get ready for the day.  It also has the time handy so that I can make sure I’m not running late, and oh yeah, let me call up the map to see how far away that appointment is.

Then it comes in the car with me, where I use Bluetooth and make a few calls (this is not safe, and I’m trying to wean myself away.  Did you know that talking while driving impairs your ability as much as drinking and driving?!  Scary!).  This also allows me to continue the music, ebook, or podcast, or some mixture of all of them.

I arrive at the meeting where I am the speaker.  I set up the timer on my iPhone app to keep me on track (again, flight mode, ensuring no calls or texts come in while I’m speaking).  Any follow-ups from the meeting I add to ToDoist to complete later.  Someone asks if I’m free next Wednesday; let me consult my calendar.  Next meeting is with a potential client, so I’ll check for their website address from my contacts, and tap to review it from the parking lot before I head in.  After that I head to lunch and while I’m eating I check my voicemail, email, and tweets.  Really I’m just scanning email messages here for my convenience.  And by the way, on my iPhone, my “Fetch” settings for email are set to manual.  So my email only downloads when I instruct it to.  I’ll “process” the important emails later at my computer.  Twitter usually gives me great reading material for while I eat.

So then I head back to my office, and set the iPhone to play some classical music while I work for several hours.  If I’m doing low-focus work, I might allow calls through. Otherwise it’s in DoNotDisturb mode. If it rings, not only do I get a name and number, but also a picture so I can decide if I’m going to answer.  When a text shows up the options are “close” or “reply.”  Since I’m working, one tap on “close” and I’m back to my work, barely interrupted.  Now I’m starting to think about dinner, so I check Grocery iQ to make sure I’ve noted everything I need, and I dash off to the grocery store, where I check them off as I shop.  When I get home, I plug into the external speaker again to listen to an audio book, call up the recipe on Safari, and cook dinner.  After dinner I walk the dog with my husband, snap a picture of the beautiful sunset, email it to a friend and maybe post it online.  I’m involved in my neighborhood association so I also snap a picture of a broken sign and email it to the chair of the maintenance committee.  When we get home, we start talking about a movie tomorrow night, so I call up Flixster to see what’s playing and maybe buy tickets.

I already mentioned how I use iPhone apps before I go to sleep at night.  All of these uses have one thing in common:  they enable conveniences for me, not others.  I manage all the features so that I am in control of my time, and I don’t let distractions interrupt me when I’m busy.  I would suggest that there are two important things to consider when pondering a phone upgrade:  how many conveniences will it add to your life, and do you have the discipline to control it, rather than letting it control you?  This same logic, in case you were wondering, can also be applied to many of the other ways to communicate like instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  Learn the benefits that are available in participating, and then learn how to incorporate them into your life so that you are in control.

Thanks for reading!  You may also be interested in the update of this post.)