When you think of productivity, tools like your computer, Google Docs, and Slack may spring to mind. However, I’ve found one of my most important productivity tools is actually my iPhone. The iPhone could be a very useful tool, but the vast majority of people use their iPhone as a life-shortening distraction device. However, if you follow the iPhone productivity instructions given in this article, you will be more productive, more focused, and — I’m not kidding at all — improve your mental health.
Essentially, each iPhone setup choice has tradeoffs. I’ll tell you about ideal defaults and then trust you to make the right decision about whether that default is good for you.
If you follow these iPhone productivity tips carefully, you’ll find that your iPhone can help you be more productive throughout the day—adding to the amount you can achieve and the quality of that work.
Let’s get started.
Ways To Make Your iPhone Work For You, Not Against You
Here’s how to configure your iPhone to work for you, not against you:
#1. Turn OFF (almost) all notifications
Let’s start off with iPhone notifications. To make sure you’re not using your iPhone for nonwork stuff during work hours, i recommend that you turn off virtually all notifications.
To do this: Start the Settings App on your iPhone, then head over to the Notifications Section. You are going to need to get good at launching the Settings app, therefore, master the location of this icon.
Scroll down app by app, turning off all notifications.
essentially, almost all of your apps should have a notifications setting that looks like this, that is, with no notifications:
There are just one or two reasons to leave notifications on for a given app. Here are those reasons:
- Leave notifications on for all delivery apps. These notifications are supposed to only come when you want them to, i.e. if you’re standing on the corner
trying to get a Lyft. Apps in this list includes: Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Food Panda, Caviar. Of those, Postmates is the major villain of spamming you with undesired
interruptive notifications. Consider removing that app.
- In case you receive very few text messages, turn off badging on your Messages app but leave banners on. Because you are setting your iPhone up to have pretty few notifications,
You will actually end up seeing most of your text messages on your home screen as they come in (before, they were perhaps flooded by other notifications).
Then, the unread badge for messages is just overkill to make you anxious about messages you already saw. If you get loads of text messages, then the best thing is to turn off
all notifications and take text messages like an inbox that you only check at set intervals. If you belong to a group of people who send hundreds of text messages
all day long, then you are eccentric and wasting your life away.
- Leave notifications on for your calendar app. Not missing appointments is essentially the main reason of having an iPhone.
- Leave notifications on for Apple Maps and Google Maps. These apps only sends notifications when you are actively getting directions.
- Leave notifications on for phone calls. However, think of disabling them and updating your voicemail to state that phone calls are a dead medium. My
voicemail will tell you something like this: “You have reached my voicemail meaning you tried to call me meaning you are a dinosaur. Kindly upgrade your life and try me through
text message or email.” (I’m kidding.)
- For all the notifications that you left on, revisit and check to ensure badges are turned off. Badges are the red dots with numbers in them to indicate that a new message, email, push notification, or voicemail is waiting. They can give you anxiety
that there is something noteworthy going on in that app. You’ll improve your mental health if you don’t see those badges.
This article is all about iPhone productivity hacks. In this regard, I started this post with the advice to turn off notifications on your iPhone because it’s the biggest offender. Moreover, you will not read this post to the end if you leave your
notifications turned on.
The following are the iPhone productivity objectives that should make you careful with notifications.
#1: Notifications are wild disruptions from your main objectives. They keep you from ever getting into a flow state. You should take charge of
what you do and when — not your iPhone.
#2: The brain science behind learning requires constant attention to
trigger myelin growth around active neural pathways.
That’s what brain malleability is all about. However, if you continue to interfere with that process, you will never attain the myelin growth that locks in whatever you
were learning. In essence, notifications bring about a underdeveloped life.
#3: Those red dots leads to anxiety, and anxiety leads to health issues like heart disease. It’s not exaggeration that I discussed the issue of mental health in the
introduction of this article. Not particular to red dots, but
mild anxiety was shown to increase mortality by 20% over a ten year period.
#2. Hide social media slot machines
‘Slot machine apps’ is a disapproving phrase to refer to apps that
Are designed to be addictive and they should equally be regulated. Basically, social media apps works the same way as “Slot machine,” except their aim is to keep you in the app for as long as possible, rather than taking your money.
Apps that fall in this category includes: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more.
Luckily, it’s easy to configure all of your social media to get rid of the addictive elements.
- Move Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope, LinkedIn and Tumblr into a folder on your second screen. These apps are designed to get and hold your attention as long as possible.
- Most people name this folder ‘Social’ or ‘Media’. For sometimes, I named my folder Useless. That was pretty condemnatory. I’d suggest naming this folder
Leisure so that you’re being clear with yourself about when to check it.
- This setup goes far deeper, however: hide your favorite social apps on the second screen of that folder.
Here is the logic behind this iPhone productivity set up. When your addictions are in the first screen of a folder, they are still visibly luring you. That’s not so good:
Your best bet is to move your apps to the second screen of that folder, like so (the first screen has only one app, the second screen has the rest):
This technique of second-screen-of-folder-on-second-screen requires that at least one app be visible. When you arrive at this result point for social media apps,
you apparently should choose LinkedIn. It’s less addictive.
Special acknowledgment for people who want to achieve maximum iPhone productivity: just uninstall your social media apps and be done with them.
#3. Hide messaging slot machines
This is the same approach as #2, just for messaging apps. Messaging apps also have some element of addiction — which qualifies them as slot machines.
- Move Messenger, Whatsapp, Slack, Messages, and Mail app into a folder on your second screen. You decide when you check these. Live a life
Free from disturbances!
- I’ve named my folder Messages. The default folder title recommendation by iOS is Productivity. That is a white lie.
- Follow the same strategy from #2, hide all but leave one app on the first screen of the folder.
The productivity secret to manage your inbox is to decide carefully when you want to open your messages apps. Then, attend to all your messages as one huge batch. Batch processing
puts you in control. Ill-advisedly, many people live life reactively, regularly checking their inboxes for messages to react to. For you to realize your
full potential, consider adopting the batch processing approach for all of your inboxes.
For productivity fanatics, consider uninstalling your social media apps and do away with them. People who set a strict time for when and where they check their inboxes often realize they can do
all of their emailing from a laptop or desktop computer. For Slack users, private messages and channel notifications are meant to be asynchronous — which is to say you
don’t require instant alerts.
#4. Disable App Review requests
You start an app with an aim to do something productive, and then that app prompts you to leave a rating or a review. This kind of interruption is annoying, and your goal is to eliminate
as many interruptions as possible.
So disable these unwanted In-App Ratings and Reviews requests on iPhone. Simply follow these steps:
- Head over to Settings > Apple ID > iTunes & App Store. Turn of the switch next to In-App Ratings & Reviews.
Is it wacky how we think of iPhones as productivity tools but then allow so many unproductive features? Honestly, it’s wacky. This isn’t just some app-developer
trick, it’s actually a
built-in feature designed by Apple.
That’s how Apple is unconcerned by the harm caused by interrupting your work flow.
The thing about In-App Review Requests is that when you use free apps, you are essentially entering a partnership with the app developer where you are working
on their behalf, mostly by clicking on advertisements, or in the case of app reviews, by acting as promoting agent.
Apps with a huge number of positive reviews are ranked higher by Apple. As a result, app developers have a tendency to interrupt you with in-app ratings and review requests just when you are in the middle of
doing something productive.
Of course, you can always head over to the App Store, browse through your list of downloaded
apps, and write a reviews for each of them. Share your favorite iPhone productivity apps with your friends (as I’m doing in this article). Or, go for the pro or paid versions. I’m
finding that I almost at all times choose to get a pid or pro virsion for an app.
#5. Turn on Do Not Disturb
Most people should have their iPhone on Do Not Disturb at all times.
Do Not Disturb is not as severe as you might think, thanks to a sub-feature, you can make an exception for a group of contacts on the Do Not Disturb settings screens. This means, , you can allow your kid, significant other or best friend
to interrupt or or wake you up.
If you want to set the Do Not Disturb feature to work all day, you need to turn it on from the same time to the same time, such as from 8am to 8am. I tested the feature
And it works just fine (I was concerned it would effectively turn itself on and off again in the same minute).
If, however, you would like certain people to be able to contact you (for example, your kids or spouse,), then just set Do Not Disturb for your sleep and leisure
The do Not Disturb feature can help you be more productive on your iPhone so you aren’t constantly getting disruptions from Facebook Event invites and WhatsApp messages when you are just trying to do something productive on your iPhone. That’s because Do Not Disturb can be enabled to block annoying notifications while you’re actively using your iPhone. Simply follow these steps:
- Head over to Settings >Do Not Disturb
- Do Not Disturb feature works slightly differently on your iPhoneversus on your Mac. On a Mac, Do Not Disturb feature is always scheduled, and therefore, turning it on all day requires tweaking the schedule to be something like 8am to 8am where as on the iPhone, you only need to toggle it on and ensure you don’t toggle
the Scheduled option.
Majority of the people though will choose to just have it on for a set period of time, like 5pm to 8am.
- Allow calls from your favorites. Favorite here has a deeper meaning: this is a group of people who you would allow to interrupt
- There’s a Repeated Calls option to allow repeat callers to get through. Do not enable this. We totally do not want to give interrupters a room.
The logic behind this iPhone productivity set up is similar to the one given above. Limited interruptions has numerous benefits, such as the science of brain plasticity,
the effects of anxiety on health, as well as the productivity benefits of optimizing for deep work (all.
The reasons why I love do not disturb feature is the ability to pre-select a limited number of people whom I’d like to interrupt my day. For me, that’s my spouse, kids and my dog loy.
#6. Be strategic about your wallpaper
The very best wallpaper should have complete black background. Selecting black makes your iPhone less attractive thereby destroying the notion that your iPhone is some flashy toy that you need to keep staring
at all the time.
Furthermore, with OLED screens (majority of latest iPhones), black actually saves up to 60% of battery power.
If you find yourself running out of battery power or are a real productivity fanatic, then black is the most appropriate option for you.
- On your iPhone, headover to Settings > Wallpaper > select a New Wallpaper > Stills. The all-black option is right there at the bottom.
If you can’t stomach making a thousand dollar iPhone appear like something out of the 1940s, select the black with rainbow stripe option which is right next to the black option in
More options are available:
In case you are shy, select a wallpaper that will serve as a conversation starter.
- The most recommended conversation starter is a pet. If you don’t mind, try getting a pet. Dogs are best (
74% of people prefer dogs, while only 41% prefer cats).
Keep in mind to adopt from a pound,
As opposed to breeder. And even better, owning a dog corresponded with a
20% reduction in mortality.
- Take a photo of your pet.
- Choose the picture of your Pet. Pick Still (saves battery power).
Wallpaper > Choose a New Wallpaper > Camera Roll
In case you prefer inspirational images:
- Confirm that this is you by looking at your walls. You should have at least one inspirational quote hanging somewhere in your house.
- Go ahead and browse for striking inspiration quote.
- Save the image to your iPhone.
- Head over to Settings > Wallpaper > Choose a New Wallpaper > Camera Roll
- Choose the motivational wallpaper. Pick Still (saves battery power) and Set Both.
The major drawback with inspirational images is that words could make your iPhonescreen look cluttered. I recommend an image, such as a mountain or a person working
out, rather than having a quote or motivational phrase.
If you prefer affirmation or motivational text, the best trick is to creat a background of yourself in Instagram Stories. Instagram will allow you to
save the Story to your iPhone’s camera roll.
To achieve best results, try sticking to just a single word, and put that word low enough that it appears below your Do-Not-Disturb message. If you use this method,
there are two things you need to consider:
- Use this just for your Lock screen instead of your Home screen.In my experience, I’ve found text yielding better results on your Lock screen than it does behind the apps on your
- Consider making a new wallpaper after a few weeks that holds similar affirmation, but a different background. As such, you don’t become blind to your affirmation.
In case you are not decided on the most appropriate strategy, choose an image with a dominant color that tells a color story to trigger one of the following emotions.
- Red: action, ambition, determination
- Green: Natural, Stable, Prosperous
- Blue: Serene, Trustworthy, peace
- Gold: success, achievement, triumph
- White: Clean, Virtuous, Healthy
Caution! Don’t choose orange (cheap) or yellow In case you’re not sure, Choose Red. Picking these colors can drain your iPhone’s battery power more than a red background,
but you may find the emotional benefits to be valuable.
Personally, I interchange between a red background and a meaningful picture. There is some possible science backing the benefits of small
changes to your work environment to create productivity boost.
Unfortunately, I can’t find a reference, though I’m 98% sure I read this in
Your Brain at Work.
Basically, the theory states that shaking up your environment a small amount puts your brain on alert (but not so much to the point of causing anxiety).
#7. Turn off Raise to Wake
TheRaise to Wake is a feature that turns on your iPhones screen when you pick up the iPhone allowing you to quickly see notifications on your lock screen just by lifting your iPhone.
This is not a good idea. You don’t want to inadvertently see notifications on your lock screen when you pick up your iPhone to do something productive. You want
only see notifications on purpose.
The real productivity fanatics check their notifications on their own schedule.
- Head over to Settings > Display & Brightness > Raise to Wake. Turn off.
This is yet another setting to make sure you are the one in control.
#8. Add the Screen Time widget
The Screen Time widget is a new feature from Apple and it informs you about the total amount of time you spent on your iPhone during the previous 24 hours, as well as additional information about which categories of apps you used while browsing your device. Ideally, the Social Media category will not appear on this list.
Simply follow these steps to add the Screen Time widget to your today view:
- Swipe right on your iPhone home screen to get to the Today view.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the Today screen, and tap Edit. This will reveal a list of apps that have widgets.
- Scroll down to find the screen time and Tap the green plus button next to it. This will add the screen time widget in Today view. Tap and hold on the three-horizontal-lines button to reorder the widget to be
near the top. By the end of this post you are going to have 3 widgets at the top of your Today view: Google Calendar, Weather, &Screen Time.
This widget will serve as a reality check against your own biased memory.
I’ll recommend additional widgets later in the article, and then trust that you’ll develop the habit of checking the Today View by swiping right from
Your iPhone’s home screen (Typically, it dwells to the left of your home screen).
It does seem to be roughly true that what gets measured gets done. There are a number of variants of that quote, but my favorite is “
What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated
.” The main objective for most of the steps provided in this post is for you to use your iPhone less, and to use social media apps much, much less.
This widget will provide you with the feedback if you’re heading in the right direction. I consider it the feedback part of the above quote. Then hopefully the reward is an intrinsic satisfaction
in your own life and productivity.
On top of adding the Screen Time Widget in today view, it’s imperative that you set yourself a goal for social media usage. Think of it this way, you had a kid and were setting a limit for how much
Computer games they could play each day. Is 1 hour realistic? Probably. Is 6 hours realistic? No.
Now, instead of this kid, assume that you are setting limits for yourself, and that social media has replaced your computer games playing time.
How much “leisure” time every day do you think is reasonable for yourself? If you’re not sure, pick 30 minutes. That’s sufficient time to check your Facebook
and Instagram, drop loads of likes on your friends, send a tweet, and get the gist of the news.
#9. Enable content restrictions
Blocking yourself from certain websites has some benefits. I don’t mind treating myself like a kid in need of parental
controls. The fact is that we all could use some strict blocks to thwart our nasty habits.
On the iPhone, the feature to limit adult websites is located in the Screen Time settings or
depending on the iOS version that you are running.
I’m not trying to make any point at all about your adult website usage. I’m just trying to help you find the feature (and it’s the most hidden feature
in this post).
- Head over to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Web Content and then tap “Limit Adult Websites.”
Turning on this feature allows you to then add specific websites, which don’t necessarily have to be adult websites at all.
Think about it this way, do you have any habitual behaviors around checking specific websites? If so, use this feature to break those habits.
For instance, I used to reside in Cupertino and so had a habit of checking the website for the daily paper. That’s the one site I block because I don’t
want to have that habit anymore.
If I were content restrictions for productivity designer, I’d implement a feature called Google-only, which would enable you to Google any term and then click any
result. But you’d be blocked from going directly to any sites or clicking deeper into any site.
However, since I’m not Apple CEO, the above option is the best available solution and is perhaps ideal for most people. I will provide a more hardcore
#10. (Optional) Use restrictions to turn off Safari
Most of you will disregard this… but I tried a month with zero access to a web browser. If you are up for this, I certainly would love to hear from you.
The idea is that the browser is one of the addictive element that grabs your attention and wastes your time.
So I used parental controls to disableSafari.
Actually, I would very seldom need a web browser, so I’d download the
Microsoft Edge app,
do my browsing, and then delete the Microsoft Edge app.
If this approach of reclaiming your iPhone at all sounds good to you, here’s the trick:
- Head over to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps and then disable Safari.
When I tested this, I choose Microsoft Edge as my occasional web browser because the process of removing access again was quick. I found it easier to delete the
Microsoft Edge app than to remember to find Safari restriction option that is deeply buried inside five taps.
#11. Organize your apps and folders alphabetically
You can organize your apps in four different ways: by function, by color, by random chance, and alphabetically.
I recommend that you organize your screens by function. Do the same to apps within folders. Place the tools in the home screen.
Place apps organized into folders in the second screen. Place junk, namely Apple apps you aren’t allowed to delete in the third screen.
Nevertheless, on all screens and within all folders you have to go a step further to organize . You should pick alphabetically.
- On your home screen, organize all of your apps by name, with numbers (like 1Password) coming before letters.
- In your folders, organize the apps hidden behind the first screen alphabetically as well.
- On your second screen, organize your folders alphabetically.
- I’m going to leave it mostly up to you on how to organize apps beyond the first screen. Probably, they should mostly be inside folders.
- I think it’s a bad sign if you have apps spilling out into a third screen. Put them in folders! The only thing on the third screen should be apps that
you are not allowed to unstall. The latest iOS allows you to uninstall all the built in apps with the exception of Wallet, Safari, Find My, and App Store. I placed all
these Apple apps into a folder on my third screen, mostly as a precaution in the event I need them one day.
Here is the idea, when you decide to open an app, I want you to have the actual title of the app in mind. That way it’s easier for you to
be acting logically and purposely. That’s the logic behind using an alphabetical organizing structure.
Another good reason is that alphabetical is far way easier. Organizing by function is challenging because sometimes apps have multiple function. Organizing
by app title is less confusing in contrast.
#12. Choose Gmail
For most people, the best iPhone setup is to embrace Google Cloud services such as: mail, calendar, photos, maps and pair them with Apple hardware.
If you are using a different platform, such as Apple email or Outlook, then stay with that. It’s not worth switching.
You can often configure the Apple apps to connect to the Google services. But it’s always better to just use the Google-specific app. In this case, I’m
going to talk about Gmail.
Don’t use Apple’s Mail product. Google’s actual Gmail app just works more smoothly, especially search.
And don’t bother with any app that promises any sort of “smart” filtering or sorting of your email. Relying on somebody else’s algorithms is hugely overrated. Simply follow these steps:
- Sign up for
a Google account
(probably, you have one already).
- Now, head over to app store and download the
- Next, put the Gmail app you have just downloaded in that “Messages folder” we created in Step #3.
- Keep in mind to turn off the notifications (also Step #3).
- Next on, delete Apple’s mail app. Apple has only recently started to allow you to delete built-in apps. Take advantage of it!
- Now, Navigate to Gmail on your computer and disable your inbox tabs. Perhaps, you think Google is helping you by automatically categorizing your incoming email,
but you’ll be at an advantage making the habit of unsubscribing and manually filtering.
So, armed with the above settings, you should be working on your email habits. Basically, that means unsubscribing and blocking aggressively. I receive loads
of additional email too that I consider for the record — for instance, I like having a history of all of the newsletters I send out, but I don’t need to read each one
as they get delivered to my inbox. I filter those into folders and only check those folders once in a while.
#13. Choose Google Calendar
Another iPhone productivity hack is to use the native Google Calendar app and ignore Apple’s Calendar app. Simply follow these steps:
- Download and install the
Google Calendar app.
- This is an app that you are going to turn on notifications but turn off badges. Never allow badges anywhere.
- Now go to the Google Calendar settings.
- You can configure the week to start from Sunday to Monday (or in some locations, Saturday). I choose Monday. I don’t understand how any person thinks
the week starts on Sunday since Sunday is literally part of the weekEND. But whatever, people have strong opinions on this and I can’t dissuade them.
- Now, disable “Show declined events.” You declined the event so that you wouldn’t have to think about it.
- Disable “Show event illustrations.” That feature is useless.
- Next, head over to Default event duration and set the default to 30 minutes. You do not require an hour for most meetings. If you’re the the host of the meeting,
you can be in control of saving your and everyone else’s time.
- Finally, add the Google Calendar widget to the top of your Today screen: To Add a Widget on todays view: swipe right from your home screen > scroll to the bottom
And tap edit button > turn on Google Calendar > Move Google Calendar to the top of the screen.
#14. Replace Apple Maps with Google Maps
Apple Maps is good , but Google Maps is better. You’ll only need to use Apple Maps when you use Siri (it’s Siri’s permanent default).
Use Google Maps every other time. Simply follow these steps:
- Download theGoogle Maps app.
- Add Home and Work addresses to My Places in the app. This will involve connecting to a Google account. In case you have problems and are using a custom Google
domain, then you should enable some permissions from the site admin panel. In such scenario, these are the
instructions that helped me.
- Head over to Google Maps Settings > Navigation settings and turn “Keep map north up” on. This is a handy setting for people who actually desire to develop their
sense of direction.
- Move Google Maps to your home screen. This is another useful tool.
This is yet another example of favoring the Google Cloud. And the custom settings for Home and Work are just small time-savers. There is not a huge extra
#15. Install the Gboard keyboard for faster typing
This will allow you to type faster through swiping. The
for typing on a iPhone is set through the swipe method: just swipe your finger over the letters of the word you’re trying to type. The keyboard will figure
out what you intend to type.
In the beginning this will feel a bit uncomfortable, but it will quickly become part of you.
Gboard, from Google, also has
Numerous great features
too such as GIF and emoji search. Simply follow these steps:
- Download theGboard app.
- Now, on your iPhone, head over to Settings > General > Keyboard > Add New Keyboard.
- It’s easy to inadvertently switch back to the old default keyboard, so delete that (don’t worry, you can get it back). Head over to Settings > General > Keyboard
> Edit. Then delete the default one. It’s possibly named as a language, like English (United Kingdom).
- In case Gboard is not appearing when you want to type a message (perhaps you skipped the above step), just tap the globe icon to cycle back to it.
- I also set my keyboard to black before knowing that I could delete the default Apple Keyboard. That helped me to determine through the appearance, which keyboard was active.
You can also choose your keyboard theme by launching the Gboard app and tapping on themes.
Actually, I was so unsatisfied with the native Apple keyboard that I’d stop using it completely. I’m a fast laptop typist, so I’d always delay
writing until I got to my desk.
Now, with swiping, I can type a little bit faster and that’s the difference between typing nothing and being ready to type lengthier text.
Where that ties into iPhone productivity is what majority of the people call the “touch it once” principle. Particulary with email, you want to stop the habit of reading the same
email twice. So if I happen to read an email that needs a feedback , I want to write the feedback immediately.
#16. Switch to Google Photos
This is the final of the iPhone productivity set up to use the Google Cloud rather than Apple’s built-in options.
The major advantage of Google Photos is that the search feature is wonderful. They use machine learning algorithm to categorize all of your photos so that you can later search
them. For instance, without any hassle I can find all my photos by simply searching for the word me. And I can easily reveal photos of my dogs by searching for
dog. Google Photos is smart enough to create an album that collects photos taken during a specific period — such as a vacation — organized into an album of showing the “best” photos from the trip.
For photos, simply follow these steps:
Google Photos app
and follow the on-screen prompts to configure the app.
- Move Google Photos app to your home screen.
- If you’ve been storing photos in iCloud, you can now disable that.
Follow these steps to copy your photos over
- You can try turning off iCloud storage for photos: Head over to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > turn off the switch next to Photos. However, when I did this, I ran into trouble so I’ve left it on. This
step is not important.
- The vast majority of people would need to upgrade their Cloud photo storage to accommodate their entire photo library. I’m presently on
Google’s $1.99/month plan
for 100GB, but am about to upgrade to the $9.99/month for 1TB.
Typically, I store my photos in four different places: Google photos, iCloud, laptop and Dropbox sync. This is because I’m overly suspicious. I should perhaps remove them
Of those, Google Photos offers the best experience for viewing my photos, thanks to the machine learning algorithm behind Google’s search. This is a great achievement worthy of a thousand accolades. Search is more reliable and faster than you trying to manually categorize every
#17. Use Evernote for all note taking, to-do lists, everything
If you already love your note taking app and to-do list app, then by all means, stick with those. Don’t switch
However, if you don’t use a note taking app or to-do list app, or would love to have a different experience, let me give you an idea that will lead you
to Evernote: go messy and trust search.
Place your to-do list in Evernote, either by creating one long note that you edit daily or a new note for every day. Then place every other note in
Evernote too. Don’t worry specifically with categorization. Instead, just trust that you’ll be able to find anything you need afterwards via the search feature of Evernote’s.
In the end, you will have a messy but lasting functional system. The other method, always switching apps, systems, and categorization schemes always
The main advantage of a messy to-do list is that not everything has to be a check list item. You can mix in quick drafts and longer notes to yourself. Simply follow these steps:
- Download theEvernote app
- Move it to your home screen.
The major drawback of productivity systems is that they break. Consequently, many productivity fanatics spend a lot of their time creating new productivity
systems time and again. This, apparently, is not productive.
Therefore, where possible, I recommend that you use messy systems instead of rigid systems. The definitive messy system that I’m sure all of you know
is the paper notebook. A paper notebook offers you great flexibility: you can write down notes the way you want, write drafts, sketch outlines, draw
pictures, write to-do lists, and more. A to-do list app does not allow you to do that.
The only drawback to paper notebooks is that it’s impossible (or at least pretty difficult ) to find an old note.
All of that is the rationale behind merging your to-do lists with your notes, and then putting them all into a single cloud-backed note taking system with
Powerful search features.
Although Evernote is packed with advanced features that might or (perhaps) may not be a pleasure to use, the basics works just fine. I suggest starting with
free and then upgrading ($60/year) if you run into a limit on bandwidth or offline availability.
#18. The case for Calm as your go to meditation app
When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives: We lower our stress levels, we get to know our pain, we connect better,
we improve our focus, and we’re kinder to ourselves. That’s a good option. Actually, the vast majority of people I know who
meditate don’t need a everyday guide.
Once you learn to meditating on your own, Calm is the most recommended option because of their built-in timer and tracking feature. Simply follow these steps:
- Download the
- Calm is a wonderful app and it’s worth every penny. It’s $59.99/year.
- Locate the Open Ended Meditation in the Meditation section. Choose one with a bell playing every few minutes (my setting is for 5 minutes).
- Similarly, locate the Breathe option in the More section. This can be a very good technique to reset your body.
- Also, I choose not to have any background noise from my meditation app. In Calm, turn this off in the Calm app by navigating to More > Scenes and then adjusting
the background Volume slider to zero.
As such, you can take a seat and meditate for a set period of time while also being assured that your iPhone has not run out of battery.
Here are the reasons why the Calm app is about performance and not just “calm.”
Most people cite meditation as a relaxing or spiritual practice. That’s okay for them. However this is a productivity article, therefore, I’m going to tell you
The benefits of meditation for your productivity.
The fundamental idea comes from the world of deliberate practice, which is when you identify the components of skills that are vital to your success, and
then practice those components one by one. I recommend that you approach meditation as a practice session for a skill that you’re going to use to improve your
With meditation, you’re practicing a two-step process that you will apply outside of the meditation. The first step is becoming aware of where your mind
drifted, acknowledging the thought and then putting the thought down. Call that Awareness. The second step is bringing your focus back to your point of
focus (usually your breath). Call that Focus.
This Awareness-Focus loop is what you are practicing during a meditation session. The vast majority of people feel bad when their mind drifts in the course of meditation. However,
you should in fact feel good. The more frequent your mind drifts, the more times you get to practice this Awareness-Focus loop. I tell people what they
are doing is mental pushups. The more drifting they do, the more pushups they get in.
After the practice, try to apply the Awareness-Focus loop in ways to be more productive.
#19. Install the right goal tracker for you
Essentially, there are two philosophies for how to use a goal tracking app. Both encompass choosing a set of small goals or habits and marking them off in the app
each time you do them. This will help you stay accountable and
on track with your goals and habits virtually anywhere you go.
I recommend that you install
It will helps you get organized as far as tracking your goals and habits are concerned, helping you in developing the right routine to be successful in life. It has
four different tracker types, step-by-step goal-setting, it’ll present you with helpful charts of your progress, it’s easy to set up, and you can track
virtually anything you want.
#20. Store all your passwords in a password manager, probably LastPass
Trying to remember hundreds of passwords can waste a lot of your time. Using identical password for all your accounts is the easiest way to get hacked. However, a good password manager is your first defense against getting hacked.
There are numerous good third-party password managers that are far way easier to use than Apple’s built in Keychain. If you are already using a password manager on your iPhone, then
stick with it.
I use 1Password but that’s not the pick I’m going to recommend to you. I signed up with them a long time ago when they had a pay-once option. But now they’ve
moved to a subscription model that’s quite a bit more expensive than other better options.
So, if you are looking to use a password manager for the first time, then install LastPass. The free version of LastPass stands out as the best
password manager. You can also upgrade to a premium version at $36/year.
Download LastPass here.
You will need to set it up in 3 places: as an app on your iPhone, as an app on your desktop, and as an extension in your computer’s web browser.
On your iPhone, you will also need to set up LastPass to fill passwords in Safari. Select your password manager from iOS Settings > Passwords & Accounts
> Autofill Passwords.
The idea behind the benefits of a password manager is anchored on pragmatic security and reduced cognitive load.
Your parents used to memorize people’s iPhone numbers. Now that’s a thing of the past. The same concept applies to passwords — you have better things to remember.
That’s a cognitive load reduction.
In addition, password managers can prove to be a great time saver. A common trap is to half-way embrace unique passwords for each app or site, but then find yourself constantly forgetting
and having to go through a lost-password routine. This is wasted time.
As far as security is concern, many people who don’t use a password manager result in reusing passwords. So when a hacker manage to get hold of your password to one site, they get
it for all sites. Password managers are not insusceptible to getting hacked either, but at least if you use a popular one you’re likely to hear about it when the
#21. Use Numerical as your default calculator
After accuracy, the next most important feature for calculators is a history. Otherwise you’re going to make an error and fail to notice.
Unfortunately, Apple’s built-in calculator does not come with a history feature. So:
- Download the awesome
- Move it to your home screen.
See the second line of numbers at the top of the screen? That’s a history. Having that history saves you time and decreases your errors because you can easily notice when you’ve
Typed a wrong an entry. Reduce your anxiety and have peace of mind.
#22. Put the Camera app in your dock
You can launch camera from your control center, tap the camera on the lock screen, or swipe left from your lock screen.
The option to swipe-left from the lock screen is really convenient. Practice that. But also add the camera to your dock. Simply follow these steps:
- Move the camera app to the dock.
- Now, head over to Settings > Camera and turn on the switch next to Preserve Settings. This means that the app will preserve the last mode you were in, such us video
- Still in Camera settings, if you have enough storage, set the resolution on Record Video to 4K at 60 FPS and Record Slo-mo to 1080P HD at 240 FPS.
- Finally, still in Camera settings, most people’s pictures will be framed perfectly if they turn on grid mode. Implement that.
The camera is a wonderful tool for pleasure and gratefulness. I do not mean you preen in front of the camera the whole day. I mean you take the
most beautiful moments of your day for posterity and to share with friends and family.
The main objective of this article is to set your iPhoneup to be more connected with the world. Looking for photos to take is one way to stay connected with
The world around you. Stopping a meal so that you can capture your food, however, is not the path to living in the moment.
If you ever want to post photos to Instagram or Facebook, you can consider the placement of the Camera app to be a substitute habit that allows you
to schedule your social media usage. Capture a photo in the Camera app and then post it later, during your assigned leisure time.
#23. Install a Doppler Radar app
What does 70% chance of rain mean? At times it means there is a 70% chance of rain over 100% of your locale. However,it can equally mean there is 100% certainty
of rain, but just over part of your 70% of your locale.
That’s confusing. Therefore, the only perfect way to check the weather is to compare it to the Doppler radar. These radars visualize the rain and the direction
that the rain is pointing to. That way you can figure out if the rain is really going to affect you.
- Install the
NOAA Radar app.
- Move the Doppler app to your home screen.
- Head over to your Today screen and turn on Apple’s Weather widget.
Productivity is all about planning. You’ve probably heard millions and millions of people complain about how incorrect weather forecasting is. Therefore, here’s my suggestion: be
your own forecaster.
#24. Use this Pomodoro app
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have—rather than against it. Using this method, you
break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. After about four pomodoros, you
take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. This improves your focus and increase your productivity
The Pomodoro technique will train you to avoid procrastination. As a result, you constantly push yourself much harder to get to the end of your work
period, knowing that you’ll get a short reward after.
The rules of Pomodoro are not complex; however, I suggest you have a dedicated app. There are two good apps, but I’d recommend
for $1.99 because it can easily categorize your Pomodoros.
- Download the
BeFocused Pro app
and move it to your home screen.
When do you use Pomodoro? You use it when you are doing individual work, such as checking your email or working on a project. You wouldn’t use this technique
At a meeting.
This is one of a handful of technique in this post for overcoming procrastination. My intent is that you use all of them simultaneously. For instance, the
Meditation section is typically dedicated to meditation as training that allows you to catch and fight the moods that bring about procrastination.
The Pomodoro method conquers procrastination from a different angle. It makes it easy to break tasks into smaller, more achievable goal. The vast majority of people get down on themselves if
they can’t go an entire 8-hour work day without procrastinating. Pomodoro helps you get things done by breaking up individual tasks among
discrete intervals, say 25 minutes separated by short breaks. And if that’s too long,
you can configure your Pomodoro to be even shorter. You can always start small and build up to your ultimate goal.
(The third main technique for overcoming procrastination is next — using Brain.fm for background noise.)
#25. Use Brain.fm for background noise
The vast majority of people have adopted the habit of listening to music as they work. However, virtually all research have proven that performance is poorer in the presence of
a background sound.
One obvious advantage , though, of music is social. You put on your headPhones and people know not to interrupt you. I usually wear headPhones that have no audio just
to indicate to my colleagues that I’m busy.
The research, however, on
music as a background noise
is quite tricky — there are random benefits to productivity but also a lot, a lot of drawbacks. There is alternative technique: an emerging field of auditory
science used to improve focus and decrease mind-drifting.
Brain.fm app is by far the best in these brain music category.
- Install the
- It offers a one week trial period and then $49.99 per year.
- Use their focus music as you work if you are experiencing lack of focus or procrastination.
My experience with Brain.fm is that it’s great and works exactly as itthe says. At times, without audio , my brain will have a propensity to drift. With
the Brain.fm focus music, it in some way eliminates that drifting during any dead spots in my work (like if I’m waiting for an app to load). Consequently,
I have more constant periods of focus.
Though, I find their explanation of the science to be enigmatic. It sounds exactly like the type of pop-culture brain science that most people spout.
This does not trouble me, provided that it does the job.
I need to underscore that this is a corporate-run research that mysteriously ended up with a self-serving outcome. Therefore, more than the science, I just want you to
take my word for it enough to try it out for yourself (Keep in mind , the app offers a free trial).
#26. Listen to podcasts
Your podcast app should be on your home screen and you should train yourself to listen to podcasts:
- during your commute to and from work
- While waiting in line (in the store, post office, coffee shop,)
- While doing household chores (cleaning, tidying up, doing the dishes)
- When you are out for a walk
- When you are taking a break (from work, or writing, or reading).
I recommend that you train yourself to listen to podcast during your commute instead of playing
games and scrolling Instagram. Be a single-tasker.
Apple has done a lot for the podcast medium over the years, but the default Apple Podcasts app is definitely not the best option for serious podcast listeners.
Overcast is my favorite because of its powerful playback customization options, the ability to organize your podcasts using smart playlists, a fair and transparent
pricing model, and regular app updates that consistently deliver new features and functionality.
- Install the
- Move it to your home screen.
Don’t approach your podcast subscriptions as if you need to listen to all episodes. Instead, listen to the latest episodes that sounds relevant
#27. Install the Kindle app, but never read it in bed
Kindle app has so many benefits. Firstly, it takes a short time to get used to, and as a result I’ve started to read more. There are times when I still feel I’m missing out on the physical
sensation of holding a book in my hand but mostly I LOVE it. Secondly, you don’t get weighted down with too many hardcover books with no where to store them. You literally hold your very own library in your hand. It’s AH-mazing.
, install the
This is a good app for your home screen. Try to substitute unproductive social media habits with reading or listening to podcasts.
However, you are not done.
If you enjoy reading before going to sleep, do not bring your iPhone to bed. That kills your sleep, bad sleep kills your health, and
in the end your bad health is going to kill you.
I recommend that you buy a
and put that next to your bed. If you own an iPhone, you can manage to pay for this second device.
I highly recommend that you treat Kindle as a replacement for Facebook and Twitter. How much smart would you be if you replaced almost all your social
media usage with reading?
#28. Use Safari this way
I’ve tried and like Microsoft edge and Google Chrome, but here is a problem. Either you’ll end up cutting and pasting URLs that auto-opened in Safari or
you’ll end up having to manage individual app’s preferences about how to handle a URL click.
Avoid those problems. Safari is great.
There’s a little known feature on safari calledReader mode. This mode strips out all of the in-article ads, clutter and junk. I find that it does
a great job by allowing me to peruse a webpage without distractions from ads, videos, sponsored content links, and other web elements i
may not consider essential to the article I’m reading.
To turn on reader mode just once, there’s a little four line icon at the top left of Safari. I was able to find that on my own.
What I had not figured out was that if you long press on that icon, you’ll get an option to turn on Reader mode permanently for that site. This is wonderful
and totally improved my browsing experience.
There are two things that you’re setting up here.
One is that you’ll save time by getting rid of any ads. That’s a small productivity gain each day.
The second is about being in control of your iPhone. You don’t want to see ads because you don’t want your iPhoneto be the one suggesting what you should buy and when.
#29. Organize your home screen for meaningful learning
You’ve hidden all of your shallow social media experiences in a folder on your second screen. Now, find something to replace those habit in case you would be tempted to check Twitter or Facebook.
Choose the media that will actually add a value in your live and then put apps for that on your home screen.
In my case, i’ve picked Medium, Kindle and overcast app.
These apps will surely make you smart. You just need to make sure that you can locate them easily than your old, time wasting, addictive apps.
Replacement habits are a very common technique for breaking an habit. The logic is that, it’s
easier to develop a new habit than to erase an old habit.
#30. Track steps this way
Skip this step if you already have a way you track steps. Most of you have Fitbits or other ways to do this.
If you are not already using a pedometer, your iPhone automatically tracks your steps within the Health App. Though, you don’t want to have to launch
The health app every time you want to check your step count.
In this regard, I recommend that you install an app that comes with a Today screen widget. My best pick is Pedometer++.
- Head over to Settings > Privacy> Motion & Fitness and make sure that Fitness Tracking is turned on.
- Now, download the
- Add the Pedometer++ to your Today view.
Now, you have enough reasons to check your Today screen on a daily basis. That’s great.
Also, I traversed the internet looking for some research to back up the idea behind ten thousands steps.
I found that there is ritch research on the health benefits of even minimal walking (much less than ten thousands steps):
trading two minutes of sitting per hour for two minutes of walking per hour reduced mortality by Thirty Three Percent
That’s not to say you do less than ten thousands steps though. The science for doing more walking is mixed, and requires you to make self deductions.
So, my recommendation is you put science aside and trust your instant instead. For vast majority of people, walking feels good. It’s an opportunity to keep your body fit, to build
up pride in a consistent amount of activity, to listen to your favorite podcasts, to explore your town or city. Those are enough justifications.
#31. Schedule Night Shift starting 4 hours before you normally go to bed
Night shift“shifts” the colors of your display away from the blue spectrum and toward the warmer (redder) spectrum. That’s supposed to help you sleep better.
- Head over to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift.
- Now, schedule Night Shift starting four hours before your regular bed time.
- Move the warmth slider all the way to the right (More Warm).
The normal recommendation seems to be to avoid screen time and blue light starting two hours before your bed time.
Though, I’ve found that majority of the people are often sleeping much later than they should, mostly because ofiPhone addiction. Starting
Night Shift four hours earlier offers you an opportunity to both go to sleep more easily and also to shift your bed time up. If you find yourself going
to bed earlier, then just get up earlier. Congratulations, you’ve become an early bird.
So, the main reason I love this feature is because it’s a prompt to begin working on your evening routine to go to bed. Essentially, it’s just a color coded
reminder. That’s it.
#32. Set up Medical ID
The Medical ID feature makes important medical details available to strangers when your iPhoneis locked.
In case you are incapacitated during a medical emergency, a stranger can go to your power-off screen (long press right button and volume up on modern iPhones).
That’s where your Medical ID details will be found.
- Head over to Health App > Medical ID > Edit
- I recommend that you add an emergency medical contact.
- Your medications and medical conditions would be available to any person who picks up your iPhone. If you are not comfortable with that, put a note instead: “Call emergency contact
for medications and medical conditions.”
- Knowing your blood type is not very important in an emergency situation.
Paramedics aren’t carrying blood
— they pump you with fluids instead. Then when you reach the hospital, they’ll give you the universal donor, B-negative.
- I labeled myself an Organ Donor and went through Apple’s DonateLife integration. Then I tweeted about it. The more people who sign up for Organ Donation,
the more likely your own life is going to be saved. So the selfish step here is to use your own organ donation status to encourage other people to become
In my opinion, Medical ID has three concrete benefits to you, in order of likelihood.
- A kind stranger finds your lost iPhone and calls your emergency contact.
- You have a life-threatening situation, and the doctors call your emergency contact.
- You influence someone else to become an Organ Donor and then they end up donating an organ to you. The literal probability of this is very, very low.
#33. Change Siri to a man
Most people choose female voices for services like Siri and Alexa. Consider changing that
- Head over to Settings > Siri & Search > Siri Voice. I chose American male.
Initially, I’d looked into changing Siri’s voice because somebody had told me that male have a likelihood of being cruel to female digital assistants. You know what
I mean about getting irritated when Siri or Alexa provides you with wrong information. Alexa, particularly, is fond of interrupting and is just begging to be told to shut up. I’m
constantly having to tell Alexa, “Alexa, stop.” but how close am I to cracking and yelling “Shut up, bitch?”
I’ve never treated any woman in my life that way and I don’t want to start with digital assistants.
#34. Change your iPhone’s name
The default is something like, “Moses’ iPhone.” That exposes your privacy when you have your hotspot turned on, and announces to everybody that you don’t know how to customize your iPhone.
Here’s how tochange your iPhone name:
- Open the Settings app > General > About > Name.
#35. Turn off advertising tracking
If youturn off advertising tracking on your iPhone, then the ads you see won’t be specifically targeted to you and what advertisers know about you. The idea is
that receiving few targeted ads is great. You want to spend cash on purpose.
When you want to purchase something, you want to use your iPhone for research and then make a purchase
based on that research. You do not want the vice versa, where your iPhone is suggesting to you what you should buy. You are the one in control.
- Head over to Settings > Privacy > Advertising. Turn on Limit Ad Tracking.
You’re still going to get some advertisements in some areas, However, the tip I’ve given here includes paying for the ad-free version of the apps
Paying for ad-free apps perhaps saves you some cash , as you are unlikely to purchase something you don’t need.
#36. Set auto-lock to the maximum time
When you stop using your iPhone, it’ll auto-lock to prevent some snoopers from taking your iPhone and perusing through your personal information. That’s basically
a great feature, however, the problem is that most often you’ll end up locking yourself out.
Majority of the people keep their iPhones on their person — so keeping your iPhone locked is not a big security risk. We are only talking about 5 minutes —
that’s the maximum auto-lock setting.
Instead of unlocking your iPhone every time, try extending the auto-lock time.
- Head over to General > Settings > Display & Brightness > Auto-Lock.
Set up auto-lock to 5 minutes.
My take on the value of saving time here is that those few seconds of waiting for an iPhone to wake up is when you are at risk for getting distracted. So,
worst case this setting saves you a few minutes of time.
And that covers pretty much everything about how to configure your iPhone to work for you, not against you. If you like these iPhone productivity tips, please share it with others.
Thanks for reading.