I have sometimes heard our modern era referred to as The Age of Overwhelm, and I have to agree with that statement. We have at our disposal more tools, more money, more relationships than ever before in human history. At the same time, we have more depression, unhappiness, and overall lethargy than ever before in human history. Why is this?
I blame the iPhone. Just kidding. Sort of.
In this post I am going to introduce five tips that we can use to make better use of iPhones and other smartphone technology in our lives. At the end of our article, I will give a recommendation for a framework that has enabled me to spend less time on my phone while getting more done than I ever have before.
I’m no Apple fanboy, but I appreciate the usability that goes into all Apple products, from the original Macintosh to the recently released iPhone 6s. When I talk about the iPhone, please understand that I am using it as a representation for all smartphones. I’m using the iPhone as a stand-in simply because it was the first mass market smartphone to hit the market. Of course, there were smartphones on the market before the iPhone, but they never went mainstream in the same way.
Tip #1: Monitor Your Usage
You might not think that you spend all that much time on your phone, but you probably spend more than you think. The only way to know for sure is to empower yourself with data. And my personal belief is the best way to empower oneself with data is to use the application Rescue Time. You can and should set it up on both you desktop and your phone. What Rescue Time will tell you is exactly how many minutes strike that hours you spend daily in front of a screen and how productive that time is.
In addition to installing rescue time, what I recommend doing is tracking precisely how many times per day you take your phone out of your pocket. You’d be surprised. In fact, the average person takes their phone out of their pocket how many times a day.
Tip #2: Fix Your Phone
This might seem obvious, but I am talking about more than just fixing obvious repairs. If your phone has water damage or a cracked screen, you’ll know immediately that you need to fix it.
However, there are all sorts of smaller issues that might not be easily identifiable as problems. For example, when your iphone starts to lag, how slow is to slow? At what point do you take the necessary steps to optimize it? What we found in a survey on iphone repair is that most people will make due with a slow and inefficient phone for up to 6 months before seeking help!
Common problems that people have include broken start buttons, slow and lagging apps, and updates gone wrong. iOS updates are notoriously problematic for some users, with the recent 8.4.1 update of August 2015 managing to alienate a large part of Apple’s user base.
Depending on your model of phone, you might even consider avoiding updates altogether. This is because older hardware is generally not optimized for the newer updates that are released and battery drain can occur.
Also remember that your phone may be covered by warranty. The best way to find out is to contact Apple Support in your region.
Tip #3: Stay Optimized
Here’s the thing with phones- it’s extremely easy to fall behind and not use them to their full potential. What I like doing once a year is sending out a short email to 5 or so people who I really respect for their intelligent use of technology. In this email, I simply ask- what is your favorite app and why do you like it? I typically send this question out as a Google doc, though you could try other surveys as well. The purpose is to use this survey as a means to uncover hidden potential that you have yet to unlock in your phone. Trust me, there is a lot!
Tip #4: Avoid Contracts if Travelling Internationally
If you are travelling internationally, you’ll want to be sure to get an unlocked iPhone or Samsung. Most carriers in the US, Australia, and Europe will manufacture smartphones wherein the SIM card is not removable. This means when you travel, you won’t be able to remove the SIM card and switch to a local service provider. It’s a major nuisance!
Tip #5: Understand It’s Just a Tool
This is a framework more than anything, but I believe it is important to remind ourselves on a daily basis that our phones are just tools that are meant to serve us. All too often, we get distracted by the bright glow of our phones, or respond to a new push notification. This releases a small bit of dopamine in our brains and we derive momentarily pleasure from this. However, the smartphone is not the end all, be all. There is a whole world out there beyond the screen that is waiting to be explored. If you find yourself staring into the depths of a screen for more than ten hours a day, I’d take that as a strong sign that it is time to go explore that brave new world. Get outside, young Jedi!