6 Hidden iPhone Tricks to Make You More Productive
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While we can all think of stories when we were distracted from work by an insignificant notification, scientists are backing up nomophobia with experimental data. In 2018, a group of researchers published the results of an experiment on the effects of smartphones on employees in the Harvard Business Review.
Nearly 800 participants completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity, and participants were assigned to either place their phone in front of them (face-down on a desk), keep it in their pocket/bag, or leave it in another room. Importantly, all phones had sound alerts and vibration turned off, so the participants couldn’t be interrupted by notifications.
The results were striking: individuals who completed these tasks while their phone was in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pocket, and in last place were those whose phone was on their desks. This was even true when participants’ phones were turned off.
If willpower alone isn’t keeping you productive while your phone is nearby, eliminate the choice to make your phone work for YOU—rather than working for your phone—by using these iPhone tricks.
1. Set up Text Replacement shortcuts
Don’t type out the same information over and over again. There are at least two basic keyboard shortcuts that everyone should have: your email address and your home address. Whenever you use your shortcut code, it will automatically replace with the longer phrase you have pre-set.
Once you get used to the power of shortcuts, you’ll probably start adding more!
Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement
- Add your full address. Use a simple shortcut that’s easy to remember like ‘ad’ for address or ‘ma’ for mail.
- Add your full email address. Use a simple shortcut that’s easy to remember like ‘em’ for email or ‘gm’ for Gmail.
2. Be strategic about your wallpaper
The absolute best wallpaper is an all-black background. Choosing black destroys the idea that your phone is some shiny toy that you need to be looking at all the time. It is easier on your eyes which are constantly taking in unhealthy blue light, and actually saves battery (as much as 60%). If you chronically run out of battery or are a true productivity nut, then black is the best option for you.
Go to Settings > Wallpaper > Choose a New Wallpaper > Stills. The all-black option is right there at the end.
If you really can’t stand a dark background, use your wallpaper strategically in other ways, like as a conversation starter (pets and kids are best), for inspiration (such as quotes or dream travel destinations), or calming (such as a forest landscape or night sky).
3. Schedule Night Shift starting 2-4 hours before you normally go to bed
The case against screens and blue light before bedtime is strong. One study published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found, “the use of these devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning.”
Night Shift transitions the colors of your display away from the blue spectrum and toward the warmer (redder) spectrum to help you sleep better.
- Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift.
- Schedule Night Shift starting four hours before your normal bed time.
- Move the warmth slider all the way to the right (More Warm).
4. Only see the notifications you’ll actually check.
Why not cut back your Notifications? Your lock screen is probably filled with notifications from your favorite apps like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Spotify. Take a page out of Lifehack author James Nathan’s book and remove those apps from your main screen, replacing them with apps that can increase your productivity (like using the Autonomous app with the SmartDesk 4) wellness (like Headspace or Pact), knowledge of current events (like a news app), or even language skills (like Duolingo).
Seeing those apps when you first turn on your phone will encourage you to use them more frequently and keep them at the top of your mind. (And remember, productivity does not equal popularity.)
To achieve this, sort your apps into different notification categories.
- Urgent apps can provide notifications on the Lock screen, Notification Center and Banners with (perhaps) Sound and Badges enabled.
- Less urgent apps get Lock screen and Notification Center privileges, with (perhaps) Sound and Badges enabled.
- Any of the remaining apps that are slightly worth looking out for are only granted Badges with everything else disabled.
- And all the other apps have all notifications disabled.
It is a little tedious setting this up if you have a lot of apps – you need to open Settings>Notifications and then set the relevant permission for each app. You should then make sure to set this up for any new apps you install.
However, once you have done this, you’ll never miss an important notification and will know that if you are alerted by an app, it is probably one you want to know about.
5. Quickly switch currencies and languages.
When you want to type another currency symbol, just press and hold the dollar ($) key and you’ll see a bunch of alternatives you can use. This also works on other characters, so try this on all the keys to quickly type with language accents.
6. And lastly, don't be afraid to IGNORE your phone!
Notifications are productivity’s #1 enemy. This has been examined over and over again, and studies show that it can take over 23 minutes to get back to your original task after being distracted by a notification. Here's how to shut everything out while you try to focus.
Swipe to open your Control Center (swipe down from the top right for iPhone X and above, swipe up from the bottom for older iPhones) and tap the half-moon icon to turn on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ This feature will silence calls, alerts, and notifications until you tap to switch them on again.
Better yet, given you might forget to exit Do Not Disturb mode, tap and hold the Do Not Disturb icon and then choose a duration to silence it all.
- For 1 hour.
- Until this evening.
- Until I leave this location.
- Schedule your own
“But what if there’s an emergency?!” Don’t fear, you can customize whose calls still come through even while Do Not Disturb mode is on. Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb > Allow Calls From, and select ‘Favorites.’ Check this guide to set, manage, and delete Favorite contacts.
Admitting your nomophobia is the first step—don’t be afraid to name the problem so you can tackle it. Awareness is key. Before you download yet another app to boost your productivity, consider what other features you haven’t taken advantage of on your phone already.
If you are serious about optimizing productivity, having the proper equipment can also contribute to increased focus and cognition. There are many fixtures and accessories that contribute to this, but one of the most important is a standing desk.
Consider the Autonomous SmartDesk 4, complete with smart features that are designed to keep you productive and healthy as you blast through work. You can even connect the desk to the Autonomous app to review your usage data and set up your custom productivity options.
WRITTEN BYMolly Stoneman
Freelancer passionate about design, travel, and innovation.
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