#9: Turn off iPhone distractions
6 tactics to turn your iPhone into a distraction-free device
The iPhone is so fast and convenient for many daily tasks we perceive it as a utility. But when we use it too much, there is a fine line where it plays to be more of a distraction.
“Like any tool, you can see there’s wonderful use and then there’s misuse”. Jony Ive, Apple's Chief Design Officer
In my pursuit to gain more time, in 2018, I set myself to reverse engineer my phone to have more control of it.
I started using my phone more; it’s a better and more addicting mobile user experience. So to break this destructive pattern of distraction, I made some changes to how I use my iPhone. The tactics I share below have forced me to be more mindful of my time in front of the glowing pocket screen throughout the years.
I invite you to experiment with the recommendations below and see if they help you as much as they helped me.
✅ Tactic #1:Remove app shortcuts from homescreen
In the past, I opened my phone for one thing and ended up doing something different as soon as I unlocked my phone.
Most of the time, due to a new red badge notification on another app. So now I only have 4-7 essential apps on my homescreen. So the only way to access apps is by swiping down to search or in the App Library.
The extra friction this tactic creates helps keep phone sessions on task.
✅ Tactic #2: Disable Almost All Notifications
Be thoughtful about the notifications you let on.
For example, I only have “Show on Lock Screen” and “Show on History” notifications for Calls, Texts, and Calendar Events. Then I have my phone on silent for unknown callers, and I silence the phone completely when doing deep work. Then, when I check my phone, I deal with new notifications without unlocking the screen.
But note that notifications on the lock screen only show up once.
Sometimes to view a notification, I have to unlock my phone. However, I can still see earlier notifications in those cases by swiping down to the notifications screen. That’s why I also have “Show on History” turned on.
✅ Tactic #3: Restrict Access to Safari
Access to a browser on the go can be beneficial from time to time.
However, to prevent mindless browsing—disable it. To disable Safari, swipe down and search for “Screen Time” > tap on “Content & Privacy Restrictions” > Allowed Apps > Turn off Safari.
✅ Tactic #4: Turn Off “Mail” from All Accounts
I have my personal and work email accounts installed.
But I use them only to sync with the calendar and contacts app. Then I have “Mail” in the account's settings off. And I only check mail when I’m in front of a computer in scheduled blocks of time.
If someone has an emergency and needs to get a hold of me, I ask them to text me.
Then if I have to access my mail on the go—because of an emergency—I can always temporarily turn “Mail” back on.
My policy for checking email is twice per day, not on my phone, at 11 am and then again at 3 pm. Finally, I never check emails more than once because I deal with them the first time: delete, respond, or add to my to-dos. I called these schedule blocks "email processing times" for a reason.
✅ Tactic #5: Delete All Entertainment Apps
By entertainment, I’m referring to social media apps, news apps, or video apps like YouTube.
These apps can send you into a mindless browsing spiral because they’re the most distracting of all. When I had them, I checked my phone at meetings, social events, and during meals too many times.
✅ Tactic #6: Revert Display to Grayscale
Switch your screen to grayscale when colors are not necessary.
I found colors to be overstimulating and a sneaky influencer of phone usage. However, when I set my iPhone screen in grayscale, I discovered that it was easier to stick to my original intention.
To set this up: Swipe down and search for “Color Filters” to set this up. Then tap on Color Filters, and select Grayscale.
Now you can switch back and forth between color and grayscale display by triple-clicking the side button.
Try any of the recommendations above for 30+ days, and let me know how they're working for you.
That's it: fewer distractions to work joyfully.
Jony Ive's quote: Jony Ive says folks use iPhones too much, reveals iPhone X took 5 years
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