How To Train Your Smartphone

How many times do you find yourself (and others) staring at your phone?

As a society, we're increasingly becoming more focused about mediating the world around us—to connect and engage with others. Negatively, I think that makes it harder to fully experience moments and engage with the humans surrounding us.

Obviously, I have nothing against technology, self-promotion and mass communication—as long as it's meaningful! I want you to make maximum impact and make big things happen online, just not at the expense of your health or offline relationships.

Today, I'd like to share three smartphone productivity tips. This way, you can maximize your time and impact in the “real world”!


1. customize notifications

With an ever increasing amount of social networks, it’s important that you set yourself up with notifications (and check in systems) that work for you.

The first step is customizing the notifications on the platforms themselves. Find the account settings in your social platforms and customize what activity you want notifications on. Then, decide how you’ll receive these alerts.

  • Do you want emails? 
  • Do you want text messages? 
  • Do you want desktop notifications (when available)? 

There’s no right or wrong. Try things out and decide what works best for you!

Personally, I recommend limiting mobile notifications. Most smartphones have a notification center. Utilize it! This way, you can go to one place to “check in” on all of the different “rooms” in your online empire

For iPhone users iOS 8+, simply swipe down and start by customizing the “Today” widgets. If you go into Settings > Notifications, you can customize how each social network alerts you. My preference is fully utilizing the "Notifications" center and disabling all other forms of alerts. I've attached screenshot examples. 

Notice the settings I've set for Facebook notifications. Alerts are only shown in the "Notifications" center—when I choose to check in by swiping down on my phone!




2. Delete the apps

If you’re feeling the need for a “facebreak” (or experiencing social media overwhelm), you could try deleting the social media apps from your phone. 

If you’re like most, you’ve probably built up a habit of checking these networks multiple times a day. Utilize the F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) that may occur in deleting these social apps and make a new habit of checking the networks one to three times daily from your computer. Deleting the apps from your phone will help keep you in the moment while you’re out and about in the real world.

Recognize that I’m not suggesting you get rid of social media completely (though it has worked for some and is an interesting experiment). Deleting social apps can make it harder for you to fill idle time with social media… but it can also make it harder for you to share and post! I want you to use social media with a purpose—and be highly effective!


3. Shut down

When you’re feeling the need for a quiet time to be productive, see if your smartphone offers a “Do Not Disturb” option. This means your phone will function as normal—there just won't be any screen notifications, sounds or vibrations. With iOS, you can even customize this barrier for select contacts! (Just remember to turn it off when you’re finished.)

"Airplane Mode" is a bit more severe—no calls or texting over cellular networks. However, you can still get many notifications (and communication) to come through if you have wifi enabled.



If all of this talk about settings, modes, widgets and apps makes your head spin—my final suggestion is to periodically unplug. Turn the phone off, leave it in your bag, or place it in another room. You can attend to your digital communication when you're done creating and connecting offline.

Audiences consume. Artists create.

What are your smartphone tips? Comment below!

Tony Howell is a digital strategist dedicated to helping you design your future—creating offline success from your online presence.