Smartphone Productivity

Smartphones are an integral tool in our workflows these days, but how can we be more productive with them. Check out these eight hints for using your mobile device more productively.

1. Sync your phone with your other devices

Ensure that you are working over the cloud so that regardless of the device you are using, you are accessing the same work. Transferring documents manually or not having access to the emails or documents you need are big time wasters. Most programs you use on your office computer have a mobile app version to ensure you can continue on the go and that any changes are synced automatically.

This can be a big mindset change, so the next 7 hints are a little easier to implement and will get you on the way to better productivity…

2. Manage your notifications

Unnecessary notifications are the worst when it comes to disrupting your focus. You are trying to work on a report but your phone beeps with incoming emails, social media updates and push notifications. And more often than not, these notifications are generated by computers (emailed newsletters, app notifications) rather than actual people trying to contact you about a real issue.

It is important to take one of the following steps to prevent these disruptions.

  1. When you sit down to do a focused task, put your phone on Do Not Disturb and set it to last 60 mins. Doing this one or two times per day gives you some focus time without interruption. Plus, over time it gives you the confidence that there are very few things which can’t wait an hour or so. Always make sure you set exceptions for anything which really can’t wait such as meeting reminders, calls from your child’s school or messages from the project leader or client about the work at hand.
  2. Adjust your settings so you only get notifications which you need. Every app you install defaults to enabling notifications, but you can customise all these apps from your settings page. Learn more about notification settings for Android here.

3. Optimise your home screen

If your Home screen is filled with apps which are not so good for your productivity, you know the ones I mean, then move what you do want to use more to the Home screen. Any apps you use as part of your workflows should be on the Home Screen so you are not hunting around the menus for them. This is your desktop so you want it to be filled with the tools you need to get the work done.

4. Organise your apps into folders

Building on point 3 above, it really helps to organise your apps into folders. Create a theme for the folder to group like apps together based on what they do for you. This avoids you having to hunt through the whole menu of apps every time. It is particularly helpful when you forget what an app is called because they are grouped by function not sorted by name. If I go to my Travel folder, I know that I will see all my travel related apps in one place. Since these go together it helps me do related tasks e.g. my expense claim tracker app sits alongside the apps I would use for driving directions or to call a taxi. So I am reminded to fill in my mileage at the same time.

Use whatever group themes suit you, but I, for example, use eight folders on my Home screen for sorting most of my apps. These include folders for:

  • Travel – for apps to do with moving around such as Maps, Parking, Mileage/expense tracking, Airline check-in, taxis, Uber
  • Tools – for apps that do things that used to be done by a separate object (showing my age here) – calculator, ruler, notepad, alarm clock, camera, voice recorder
  • Emergency – for being prepared for those genuine emergencies (First Aid manual, CPR metronome, AED locations, Civil Defence)
  • Office – for all those work things like Outlook, Word, Onenote, Onedrive

My other four are not so work related, but do their part to help keep the whole phone organised – Entertainment (eg TV channels, music, books, library, Youtube),  Life Admin (eg bank apps, supermarket, electricity tracker), Health, Social Media and for all the parents out there, another folder with my kid’s names on which contains all the apps they can use (and can only continue to use if they don’t stray from that folder).

5. Declutter your phone

Phones need a spring clean every now and then. Get rid of unnecessary apps (sort by size to enable you to get rid of the largest ones you don’t need first). Make sure photos, documents, notes etc automatically sync with your main device/the cloud. Get rid of any files sitting in the Downloads folder or save them as appropriate.

6. Make handy apps available despite security passwords

It is often a requirement of business insurance that smartphone users have proper anti-virus and security software and that the user has a password or other security means to limit use by other parties. Ensure that you are compliant with your company’s policies first of all.

However, you can comply with security practices and still have handy apps like your camera easily accessibleJust add your camera to the lock screen. It lets you take new photos, but won’t allow access to view your existing images.  Really handy on site visits when entering passwords to take a photo can get annoying.

7. Optimise typing on your phone

If you type with your fingers (rather than a stylus), chances are you make a lot of errors with the keyboard being too small. A simple fix, if you use your phone in portrait is just to rotate the phone. The keyboard is bigger when the phone is held in landscape.

Use templates and quick responses to quickly enter in standard replies and requests rather than typing them afresh each time.

Also try dictating, phones have great language recognition. Try Gboard so you can dictate text on the go or do glide typing.

8. Sync mobile bookmarks with your main computer

Did you know that you can see websites that you bookmarked on your phone when you are back in the office on your PC? Your desktop Chrome browser includes your mobile bookmarks as well, if you set up sync. Find out more. This allows you to do some of that online research when you are out and about, but have easy access to this info when you are back in the office preparing the final report.

Happy mobile working!

This is the last blog post in How to June. I will be back next week with a month devoted to introducing PlanTech and some related terms. PlanTech is digital technology designed specifically to help us with planning tasks. You may have heard of variants of this concept as applied to other industries for example FinTech, Edtech, PropTech and GovTech. Let’s see what the future holds for planners…


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