7 iPhone Tips to Boost Your Personal Productivity

By Ron Pereira Updated on February 1st, 2019

Over the last month I’ve begun to experiment with some personal productivity boosting techniques.  You see while I have developed some decent Leader Standard Work practices over the years I still waste(d) far too much time on non-essential things like Facebook, Instagram, and my main jam, ElevenWarriors.com!  Go Bucks!

And, I’m ashamed to say, this time wasting only increased the minute I got home.  In fact, I recently remember my 8-year-old son running up to me after I got home from work wanting to go outside and kick the soccer ball.  As he approached I was blankly gazing into my distraction box (smart phone) thumbing through mind-numbing Facebook posts and Instagram images and failed to acknowledge his presence.  Actually, not true.  I did sort of grunt, under my breath, an “uh hmmm” sort of sound letting him know I may get up and go outside to kick the ball… but, man, that soft chair and distraction box felt pretty good.

So, yeah, at that moment I was pretty much failing as a Dad… and my smart phone, which happens to be an iPhone but could be any type of phone, was my main issue.  So, like any good Kata Geek I set a personal challenge to radically reduce the usage of my phone for non work related activities.  Challenge set.

I then wanted to learn more about the current condition.  Luckily, or perhaps sadly, the new Screen Time feature on my iPhone provided an incredible amount of information.  I got to see how much time I was spending staring into my phone.  I also got to see how much time I wasted on social media and, yes, my favorite Buckeye websites.  I’ll spare you the horror… let’s just say it was a lot more than I realized.

I then set out to research some ways to limit how much I used my iPhone since I knew, long term, will power wouldn’t be enough.  I needed some error proofing.  What follows are some of the things I have been experimenting with.  I’d also love to hear any tips you have in the comments section below this article (click through to the blog if you’re reading via email or RSS).

1. Screen Time

As I mentioned, the Screen Time feature (Settings > Screen Time) helps you see how you’re using your phone that day and over the last 7 days.  You do need to adjust for things like your maps app running as that can inflate your stats.

But, Screen Time also allows you to set limits.  So, for me, I have allowed myself 10 minutes on Facebook each day and 5 minutes on Instagram.  This is plenty of time for anything I need, or want, to do including checking on Gemba Academy activity.  I’ve also set limits on how long Safari will work and I now only use Safari for non-work related surfing.  All my work web activity is done through the Chrome browser.

Once my time limits are up I can no longer access those apps or non work related websites.

2. Turn Off Notifications

Next, I’ve also turned off nearly all notifications (Settings > Notifications).  My family uses the Life360 app which allows us to track where we’re all at (and how fast my 16-year-old drives) so I left those notifications on.  But I’ve disabled notifications for everything else.  You do have to go app by app to make this happen.  This has really helped since I was constantly drawn to my phone every time some alert popped up.

3. Reconfigure Home Screen

Next, I have hidden all of my “distraction apps” in folders that now sit on the 2nd and 3rd screens of my phone.  The only things I see on my home screen are apps and programs I want, or need, to use on a regular basis.

4. Change Wallpaper

I then changed my wallpaper to all black to make my phone less appealing to look at.  Plus, they claim, this can help with battery life.  No idea if that’s true but all black is sure boring to look at!

5. Turn Off Raise to Wake

I’ve also turned off the “raise to wake” feature (Settings > Display & Brightness > Raise to Wake. Turn off).  This has been surprisingly effective especially when coupled with turning off all notifications.  Now, the only time my phone turns on is when I intentionally tap the screen and wake it up.

6. Enable Grayscale

OK, are you ready to have your socks knocked off?  I’ve enabled the grayscale color filter.  I discovered this tip from a digital minimalist who believes, and I tend to agree, phone makers spend a lot of time and money making their screens bright and beautiful.

And, guess what?  Every time you look at the bright and beautiful screen your brain lights up a little increasing the addiction.  Here’s a statement from the Center for Humane Technology on this very topic.

Colorful icons give our brains shiny rewards every time we unlock. Set your phone to grayscale to remove those positive reinforcements. It helps many people check their phone less.

Now, let me warn you… when you first make the change your brain will revolt.  It will be as if you’re walking around in your bedroom with no lights on.  You sort of know where you’re going but you still feel lost.

But, if you persevere through this uncomfortable phase you’ll get used to it.  In fact, today I was showing my colleagues my new trick and toggled back to color and found myself squinting.  It was too bright!

Unfortunately, changing this setting takes a few clicks (wonder why?).  Here’s the path for iPhone users: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters ON > Select Grayscale.

7. What about Maps?

Now, the only time I switch back to color is when I’m using my maps app to navigate in my car.  Seeing red and green have obvious benefits here.  But, as you saw above getting to this setting takes some clicks and, no, Siri won’t switch it for you (I asked).

But, don’t worry, you can create a shortcut that allows you to toggle back and forth by pressing either the home button 3 times or the side right button 3 times if you have a newer iPhone.

Here’s how to create this shortcut: Settings > General > Accessibility> Accessibility Shortcut > select Color Filters.


Now, I’m still collecting data but I can tell you my Screen Time usage stats have dropped dramatically (39% this past 7 days which includes the 2 hours of having to leave Google Photos open to upload all my images and videos to the cloud and 1 hour and 40 minutes of Google maps).  And the grayscale screen now feels normal and if I really do have a valid reason to view in color I just click the right button 3 times.  But I now find myself clicking back to gray as soon as possible.  Very odd.

So, if you have an iPhone and nearly fell off your chair after looking at how much you use your phone (Settings > Screen Time) I’d encourage you to give some of these tips a try.

Calling all Android Users

Finally, I obviously have an iPhone but am confident the Android operating system has equivalent options.  So if someone out there wants to figure it out we’d love to update this article!

  1. Jacob Rosenfeld

    February 3, 2019 - 4:17 pm

    I love the concept of this article. I think way to many people this day and age are glued to their “distraction boxes” as you so graciously put it. My main question is that wouldn’t making your phone less appealing to look at cause you to use your phone less for productivity as well as procrastination? Have you had any issues with this after making these changes?

    • Ron Pereira

      February 4, 2019 - 10:53 am

      Such a good question, Jacob. There are a variety of productive things I use my phone for. I listen to A LOT of podcasts in my car. That hasn’t changed and normally doesn’t even impact screen time since I turn the display off. I also use Google Maps since I am terrible with directions. This does impact screen time and hasn’t changed. I also check email when outside of the office. This one is tricky since my email is a form of addiction and I check it far more than I need to… especially at home. It’s still too early to say for sure but I do feel like these “tweaks” have caused me to check email less. And, guess what? The world is getting on just fine and no one has complained that I don’t return their email fast enough. So, really, I do believe going gray has dramatically cut down on non essential uses and I still use my phone when I need to. Really, what I am attempting to do here is practice temperance. But since my willpower often fails me… I wanted to try some other approaches to assist me in being more intentional and temperate. Are you going to give any of these tips a try?

  2. Tad forsythe

    February 4, 2019 - 9:38 pm

    Wow! Here I am scrolling through FB and pow!!! Right smack here is this article. I will try these tips-especially the grey scale….or is it gray scale??

    • Ron Pereira

      February 5, 2019 - 10:48 am

      Yes, I can’t tell you how many productivity “tips” I learned while wasting time on Facebook! LOL! And, man, good question on grey vs. gray. Apple says grayscale in the menu so I guess we’ll go with that. Let me know how these tips work for you!

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