Systems in Place: How to Smarten Up Your Smartphone

How smart is your smartphone?

And no, we’re not talking about whether you have the iPhone XS or Samsung Galaxy S9. Because if your phone’s becoming more of a hindrance than a help, who cares what model it is? And the complaint that our smartphones are becoming more counter-productive than constructive is one that we’re hearing more and more often. “Many of our clients struggle with the distraction of constant notifications on their smartphones,” explains Anda. “It’s that classic problem of urgency addiction. They fall into the trap of reading emails when they shouldn’t and then become bogged down in inconsequential, reactive activities rather than focusing on high-impact, proactive ones.”

Well, as always, we’re here to stage an intervention. First up, we’ve sourced two suitably comprehensive articles on how to set up your iPhone or Android phone in order to maximise your productivity when using either device (you’re welcome). “Because we keep encountering this problem, these articles really resonated with our team,” enthuses Anda. “Yes, the articles may appear alarmingly detailed at first, but these will really help you to set up your phones so that they enable you to work as efficiently as possible.” Nor do you have to work through all these suggestions at once. Pace yourself, suggests Anda. “Start with the hacks that will help you the most. And then work through the more advanced tips as time allows. It’s the sort of thing you could play around with over the Christmas break.”

If all this makes you feel a little weak, we hear you. (The suggestion of homework – no matter how beneficial it will be in the long run – over your Christmas break is always a bit of a hard sell.) So we’re complementing these technical tutorials with our own helpful hints too. Read on for our advice on how to regain control of the three key components of smartphone usage:

1. Email

The essential email principle to remember? It’s one of our favourites: either “do it now” or “decide now”. This little mantra helps you to stay in control of your email in-box at work, right? So apply the same principle to your phone. “It’s pretty simple. Don’t look at emails on your phone if you’re not ready to act on them,” says Anda. “If you do check them, take the appropriate follow-up action immediately, whether that’s deleting them, forwarding them or moving them to a folder. Just don’t let them pile up as read mail.”

2. Contacts

How often does “caller unknown” appear on the screen when your phone rings? Do you ever have to search for an email to find someone’s contact details? Shouldn’t happen, says Anda. Or at least only rarely. “Be disciplined about saving every contact. And also ensure that your contacts are readily accessible,” she advises. It’s a minor discipline to maintain, but it can be a major time-waster if you don’t.

3. Tasks

Taking on task after task? Keeping track is key – but you knew that already. So here’s a suggestion: ensure you have easy access to your to-do list so that adding extra notes is a quick and simple exercise, says Anda. “Make sure you know exactly where to add a reminder. It doesn’t matter where you store it, as long as you know where it will be kept. And if it’s something you need to spend more than half an hour on, book the time into your calendar.” Don’t forget to take advantage of your device’s AI capability, too. Siri, Google Assistant and their counterparts are so much more than annoyingly calm electronic voices. They’ll provide you with on-the-fly ability to record reminders, schedule appointments and more.

If all these sound familiar, they should. They’re exactly the same productivity-boosting principles that have enabled you to regain control of your everyday workload. And if you consider how much of your working day is spent using your smartphone, doesn’t it make sense to exercise the same control with this device? So give this a try. From now on, before you open anything on your phone, challenge yourself thus: am I prepared to act immediately on whatever this entails? If not – leave your phone alone.

Sounds like a smart move.