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10 tips to be more productive with your smartphone

published on 8 min read
Working with a Nokia smartphone

Turning your phone into a productive powerhouse that’s simple to use and less distracting is easier than you think!

Ever feel like keeping everything straight in your digital world is more of a chore than it should be? Sometimes it seems like there are too many devices, notifications and apps competing for our attention – and we already have a lot to keep track of in our day-to-day lives.

If you’re reading this and thinking that this sounds familiar, we have a few tricks for you. Here’s 10 tips to help you improve your phone productivity.

1) Simplify your home screen

Your home screen is like a desk—and a tidy desk makes a tidy mind. 🤓 Everything on your desk should have its place and you should be able to find the things you use the most with minimal effort. Which apps do you use on a near-daily basis? Make a short list – remember to keep it super simple! – and only keep those on your home screen. For example, you could have:

  1. Phone calling app
  2. Primary messaging app – e.g. WhatsApp
  3. Email
  4. Calendar
  5. Web browser
  6. Music

That’s it! Ideally, having a maximum of 5-10 icons on your home screen will stop it from feeling too cluttered and disorganized. It’ll help make navigation easier and save you time searching for them.

2) Take control of your notifications

This one is key. Sometimes it feels like every app under the sun wants to send us notifications. They constantly try to grab our attention when we’re meant to be focusing on other more important tasks. But they can’t all be important, can they?

Go to your notification settings with a selective mindset: ‘do I really need alerts from these social media, news, or shopping apps?’ Don’t shy away from disabling notifications on as many apps as possible. Switching them off will transform your phone into a far more efficient and less distracting device.

3) Split your screen to see two apps at once

Using dual monitors at work increases productivity by 42%,¹ so why not try to achieve similar results on your phone using ‘split screen’?

Group or pair apps on your home screen that complement each other; for example, a chat window and browser, or a document and web page.

For devices using Android™ 9 or later, here’s how to use more than two apps at the same time on your screen:

  1. Open the two apps that you want to display at the same time. Return to the home screen, leaving both apps running in the background.
  2. Open your “overview screen” or “multi-app view” by either swiping up from the bottom of the screen if you're using gesture navigation, or by holding the square “overview” key if you're using three-button navigation.
  3. Tap the icon above any app preview and select “Split Screen” (sometimes labelled “Split Top”) from the menu that appears.
  4. Select the second app you want to see.
  5. Finally, revel in all that productive goodness of being able to see and use two apps at once!

With two apps open split across your screen, you can look between the two quickly without having to pass through the overview screen or reopening one of the apps. This saves a lot of effort when you’ve got different information in different apps that you need to refer to at the same time!

4) Listen to podcasts or audiobooks

Not already a podcast enthusiast? Podcasts continue to gain in popularity and are a great way to discover new content without having to stare at a screen. Engage with new subjects, find new ways to improve your wellbeing, or simply enjoy a laugh. With millions of podcasts out there to listen to, it’s the perfect way to find interesting topics and new information without swiping through your phone.

And don’t forget, audiobooks are also a great way to enjoy content on your favorite subject. There are a bunch of great audiobook apps on the Google Play Store to check out, like Google Play Books & Audiobooks and many more. We also recommend Libby as a great app to discover and enjoy ebooks and audiobooks from your local library.

The great thing is, you can listen to something while you get on with menial tasks. It makes doing the washing up or folding the laundry a lot less of a chore.

5) Organize your life with a shared calendar

Stay organized and never miss an appointment again with a shared calendar. We know it’s sometimes difficult to keep all of your appointments with friends and family straight. Using a shared calendar is one of the best things you can do to stay on top of your plans for drinks or coffee meet-ups with friends, after-school clubs and hobbies, plans with your family or loved ones, work events, and those pesky but ever-so-important dentist appointments. Here’s how to set up a shared calendar in Google Calendar:

  1. Open the calendar on a desktop computer
  2. Locate “My Calendars”
  3. Click the three vertical dots
  4. Select “Settings & Sharing”
  5. Under “Share with Specific People”, add the person’s email address
  6. Finally, add the calendar widget to your home screen

6) Add an external keyboard to your phone

Now, this may sound like a bit of a hard-core move, but hear us out. Smartphone keyboards within the user interface have come a long way since the first mobile phones — they’re a lot more versatile, nowadays. But sometimes, they’re just not up to the job at hand. Pun intended.

That’s where external phone keyboards come in. They make typing easier and faster and provide a boost to your productivity. Maybe you take a lot of notes or spend hours sending business messages with your phone, in which case, a better board is a necessity. And, taking your smartphone and a smartphone keyboard is still a more portable solution than a laptop, in a lot of cases.

7) Harness Chrome’s cross-platform power

Ever find yourself wondering where exactly you checked a website? Keeping your links and browser tabs sync across devices can be a nightmare. Google Chrome can save you some serious time by making your mobile work as a natural extension of your office desktop.

The Chrome app on mobile automatically syncs across its desktop equivalent, or any device that you’re also signed into. It means you’ve always got access to your bookmarks and any page you’ve opened is easily discoverable in Chrome’s “history” section or “recent tabs” function.

8) ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode (DND)

Sometimes all you need is an hour to focus on the task at hand. One solid, uninterrupted hour. No phone calls, no text messages, or any other notification that takes your mind away from the project you’re working on. Block out all distractions and turn on “Do Not Disturb”.

Most people use DND at night for sleeping but forget about it during the day. To turn this mode on, just pull down from the top of your screen and find the “Do Not Disturb” quick-access button.

Construction workers using a Nokia smartphone

9) Use a password manager

Forgetting your password is an annoying process we’ve all been through; request a reset, change the password to something you’ve not used before, log back in—and sometimes that still doesn’t work!

With a multitude of apps and website accounts, it’s impractical to remember all those passwords. That’s why a password manager app is perfect for streamlining your logins and saving you small chunks of time every day.

10) Remember to use reminders

Your Android device has an impressive memory that can be better at remembering things than we are, so why not use it?

Google maintains a spectacular cross-platform reminder system that’s integrated directly into your phone. Anytime you need to remember something, no matter how trivial, tell your phone. You can do this by typing or speaking into any search box or Google Assistant prompt.

Whether you prefer to text or talk, always start with the phrase, “Remind me to (state your reminder),” followed by the time or place you want to be reminded.

Location-based reminders are especially useful. For example, you can instruct your phone to remind you to file a report when you get back to the office or remind you to email your boss when you get to the train station. As soon as you arrive at that location, your phone will deliver the alert.

Google should automatically know businesses and public locations. Plus, you can set custom locations like “home” and “work” by labelling them in Google Maps.

Take the productivity plunge!

There are so many ways your phone can enhance your productivity by using its useful tools. Implementing even just a few of these techniques can make a meaningful difference to your workday, reclaiming precious time so you can focus on what’s most important in your day.

¹ https://itfoundations.com/are-two-monitors-really-more-productive-than-one

Google, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Chrome and other marks are trademarks of Google LLC. WhatsApp is a trademark of Meta.

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