Stashing My Phone Helped to Improve My Productivity and Wellness

Sometimes, taking a phone break may be all it takes to get re-energized and back in the mood for work.

I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I used to be so focused and productive. I would write a to-do list and smash almost all the items on my list. Those were the glorious days when it felt like I was not just a dreamer but a doer. As time went on, FOMO got me glued to my phone screen almost every hour of the day. I would wake up to chiming notifications and a beaming blue light beside my pillowI would spend most of my waking moments tethered to my phone. I would delay projects, postpone assignments and put every other thing on my “till-later” list. Where was that girl who achieved almost everything she set her mind to do? Why had she ghosted me? I didn’t realize that I was a slave to my phone until I decided to put it down for a month.

Phones and apps are designed to be addictive, impeding our abilities to focus, think deeply, and be productive. Putting down my phone was not so easy. The urge to check it every ten minutes or less overwhelmed me. But here’s what I did to actually put my phone down and get to work.

I Turned Off as Many Push Notifications as Possible

I figured early on, that the beeping sound of my phone fuelled my urge to want to pick up my phone. I was distracted by every ‘like’ I had on my Twitter post or every notification that my favourite podcaster had released a new episode. So I made sure to cut down on distractions by turning off as many push notifications as possible. I only left notifications for email, my adhan app and my calendars. The lesser the beep I got from my phone, the lesser the urge to pick it up.

I Made Sure to Put My Phone in the Next Room While at Work

Researchers at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas studied nearly 800 smartphone users who took computerized test necessitating full concentration to score well. The participants were asked to turn off their smartphones and place them face down on their desks. The people who kept their phones in another room significantly outperformed the ones who kept them nearby, despite having their notifications turned off.

In my experience, turning off push notifications didn’t do as much as I thought it would. The urge to pick up my phone persisted. So what I did was to put myself on a schedule. I would, for example, tell myself that “I won’t touch my phone until I’ve worked for two hours straight” or “I won’t touch my phone until I’ve ticked off two items from my to-do list”. To achieve this, I made sure my phone was not nearby. I made sure to put it in the next room, far from my immediate reach. This second step really worked. But then, I discovered that during that “grace period” when I finally allowed myself access to my phone, I found it hard to put it back down and resume what I had set out to do. I would exceed my “Phone time” by hours and leave the remaining tasks for the day undone. This led me to take the next step.

I Deleted All the Apps that Stole Away My Time

Yes, I did! Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Pinterest topped this list. Once I took this step, my phone became quite boring and less engaging. This way, I was finally able to achieve almost everything I set out to do for the day. I would pick up the phone at intervals, but I had almost nothing to do with it except keeping in touch with family and friends. I knew that I would have to reinstall those apps whenever I felt ready to go back. But I needed to train myself to be in charge of my phone and not enslaved by it.

Putting my phone down helped me get a lot of work done. It also helped me to stop and think about a lot of things. I got to reflect on my life offline and got to prioritise real-life relationships over those that take place on screens. For once, I felt like I was totally in control of my life. I had the freedom, space and all the resources to put my life back on track.