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 end up using 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, I set myself to reverse engineer my phone to have more control of it. 

The reason I started using my phone more is a better and more addicting mobile user experience. So to break this destructive pattern of distraction I made some changes on how I use my iPhone. 

Over the course of a year, the tactics I share below have forced me to be more mindful of my time in front of the glowing pocket screen. I invite you to experiment with the recommendations below and see if they help you as much as they've helped me.

1 Put All Apps in One Folder

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.

Now I have all the apps in one folder and on a third screen. So I don’t see them when I open my phone. Then I only access apps by swiping down to search for the app that I want to use. Unless I recently accessed the app, I have to type its name to find it. The extra steps this tactic creates helps me keep my phone sessions on task.

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 Messenger. Then I have my phone on silent most of the day, and I only enable sound notifications when I’m waiting for a call. 

When I check my phone, I deal with new notifications without unlocking the screen when possible. But note that notifications in the lock screen only show up once.

Sometimes to view a notification I have to unlock my phone. In those cases, I can still see earlier notifications by swiping down the notifications screen. That’s why I also have “Show on History” on.

3 Restrict Access to Safari

Access to a web browser on the go can be beneficial from time to time. But to prevent myself from mindlessly surfing the web I decided to disable it. To disable Safari swipe down and search for “Restrictions” > tap on “Content & Privacy Restrictions” > Allowed Apps. 

Now, the truth is, I can still access the web by sending myself a link on the Messenger app, as it opens links in its own browser. But it’s so inconvenient, that it did the job in keeping me from surfing the web on my phone less.

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. 

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 asked 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 an email 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.

5 Delete All Entertainment Apps

By entertainment, I’m referring to social media apps, news apps, or video apps like YouTube. These type of apps can send you into a mindless browsing spiral because they’re the most distracting of all. 

When I had them, I found myself checking my phone at meetings, social events, and during meals too many times. When you're not alone, it's better for you and those around you to be present.

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. When my iPhone's display is in boring grayscale, I found that it’s easier to stick to my original intention.

To set this up, go to General > Accessibility > Display > Accommodations > Color Filters. Then toggle to turn them on, and choose Grayscale.

Go back to the Accessibility menu and scroll all the way down. Tap on the Accessibility Shortcut, then choose Color Filters.

Now you can switch back and forth between the color filters by triple-clicking the home button.

That's all I have. Try any of the recommendations above for 30+ days and let me know how they're working for you.


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