Tech hack: These 4 steps will make your phone less distracting
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Smartphones are double-edged swords. They are great tools for connecting people around the world, but they also often get in the way of productivity.
One four-step strategy for taking back control is the Four R’s: Remove, Replace, Reorganize, and Reclaim.
By changing a few notifications settings and removing non-essential applications, you can completely transform your relationship with your device.
A graduate and instructor in Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Nir Eyal has studied and taught behavioral design to industry-leading experts and scientists. He writes about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business at NirAndFar.com and his writing has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Time, Inc., and Psychology Today.
NIR EYAL: So many people complain that their phone is a constant source of distraction but we can actually hack back our devices to make sure that they serve us as opposed to us serving them – very quickly in only just four steps.
The first step is to remove meaning what you have to do is look at your phone and just delete the apps that you find are not very helpful or the ones that you find particularly distracting.
Now the next step is to replace meaning you want to ask yourself are those apps that send you all of these external triggers, is the phone the best place to use those products. For example, I love social media but I don’t really find much value in using Facebook on my phone. I like using it on my desktop and I use it during a time that I plan in my calendar according to my time box calendar because we talked about it in the last step around making time for traction. So I turned what was otherwise a distraction into traction by planning time for it in my day. And I do that on my desktop as opposed to my phone.
The third step is to reorganize. So on your home screen you don’t want just any old app to be able to attract your attention when you first open your phone. You only want the apps that serve you most. So on my home screen I might have the apps that I use most frequently that do serve me. So I have email, I have my to do list, I have my calendar and I have very little else that might distract me.
And then finally the last step is to reclaim these notifications. So when it comes to reclaiming these notifications we want to make sure that we only allow the notifications from apps that really do serve us, that are the most urgent to have the privilege of interrupting us with sight and sound triggers. So it should only be your phone calls, your text messages, the most urgent notifications. Those are the only ones who should have the privilege to send you a ping or a ding that might interrupt you in the middle of something that you otherwise wanted to do.
So as potentially distracting as we think our devices are it turns out that two-thirds of people who own a smartphone never change their notification settings. It turns out that just in a few minutes of adjusting those notification settings and asking yourself is this external trigger serving me or am I serving it. We can completely change all of these external triggers, these pings, dings and rings that lead us toward distraction.