At one point in my career, I almost downgraded my smartphone because I felt that it was holding me back instead of providing value. And I think we all feel this way at one time or another. The truth is, though, that using your smartphone to boost your success is quite simple; and that’s the key: ‘simplicity’. I have 6 tips that helped me cut through the noise and use my smartphone productively.
A note: None of these ideas are “profound.” I use an iPhone, and much of what I suggest can be accomplished on the native system without paid apps. Don’t let that deter you. As Leonardo da Vinci once said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“, the most simple approach is often the most powerful.
Finally, I want to add that my goal is simply this: To teach you to do almost anything from your phone without complex or time-consuming systems.
1. Take Notes
I love the notepad. I keep it on the first screen and can probably open it without looking. That said, I don’t use it obsessively. I take short notes that I can refer to later. Don’t try to write a book. If you’re going to be in a situation where you need to take extensive notes, bring a laptop or an iPad with a keyboard.
So what sorts of things do I record in my Notes?
- Reminders (kept to five or below)
- Things I need to buy for home or office
- Personal thoughts from a meeting or conference
2. Save website links to the Home Screen
I hate scrolling through a website on my phone, but I also want to record a website so I can look at it later. I don’t use Notes for this. Instead, I’ll find the website on my phone and then hit the “Options” button. Then I tap “Add to Home Screen” and pull it into a related folder so I can review it later. The key to this is to clean the folder out every once in a while. Take some time to look the sites up on your computer. If they’re good, bookmark them on your computer and remove from your phone.
Why not just use the “Bookmark” function in Safari? I’d simply forget that the pages were bookmarked, but when they are looking at me from the Home Screen, I remember to check them out.
3. QR Codes
These are the square bar codes that you may have seen on advertisements or business cards. I keep an app on my phone that will scan them. This allows me to open websites by scanning the QR codes. Then I save the sites to the Home Screen.
4. Kindle for Books and Docs
I like to read, everything from business to leadership to fiction. I love carrying books, but it’s simply not practical. So I read from my Kindle application. I can pick up my phone and start reading ebooks within about 10 seconds.
Additionally, I keep (non-sensitive) business documents in my Kindle app. You can email these to yourself via your Kindle email address. Mostly I keep them as a PDF (which are a pain to read), but occasionally I’ll convert to a more easily readable format.
5. Turn off the “Mail” notification
I don’t want to know when I get an email. I don’t want a little red circle with a number, nor do I want to hear the email when it arrives. It drives me crazy knowing that there’s an email there I haven’t read. So I turn off notifications and check when I have time.
6. Use the Do Not Disturb function
I’ve recently started using this. When “Do Not Disturb” is on, I don’t hear anything. I keep the phone on the corner of my desk and get to work undisturbed. Of course, I have to remember to turn it off, but this function works great if you don’t want sounds or vibrations – and you can set it to turn on automatically (I set mine for the evening hours, 10pm to 5am).
As you can see, I only had to download two apps. The rest are native to my iPhone. I wish I could provide tips for those who operate on other phones (maybe someone can in the comments?), but I don’t know the systems well enough. I am curious though: Do you have another (simple) app that you use on a regular basis? What is it and how do you use it?