Smartphones really are smart, aren’t they? They’re compact, clever and consistently, endlessly useful. So it’s no wonder we’ve become so attached to them.
Just think about it. They’ve streamlined our lives considerably; managing to consolidate our cameras, calendars and alarm clocks into one single, compact gadget. They’ve subsumed our MP3 players, calculators and health trackers. We even use them in place of cash and credit cards. But could our over-reliance on smartphones be adversely affecting the way we think and work?
"Smartphones create digital habits that keep us engaged..."
“Humans have evolved to be easily distracted,” says Colin Corby, AKA The Digital Detox Coach. “So our smartphones and apps exploit this and create digital habits that keep us engaged for longer and coming back for more. Research has shown that the mere presence of a smartphone has an impact on how we think, feel and behave.”
So how can we repress this over-reliance — or at least keep it in check? We asked Corby how he streamlines his smartphone, declutters his digital life and cultivates a more practical approach to living with technology.
1. Delete any apps you haven’t used for a month
Let’s start simply. Take a little time and scroll through your apps. You’ve likely got more than you need. If you haven’t used a particular application for a month, get rid of it — you can always re-download it later.
What’s Nike Run Club still doing there when you haven’t laced up your trainers since last summer? Why have you still got the Tesco Clubcard app on your home screen now you’re a Waitrose convert? And four different contactless ordering apps for pubs? They’re not even open at the moment…
2. Create folders to increase organisation and lessen temptation
“We need to remind ourselves that the purpose of technology is to serve us, not the other way round,” says Corby. “Streamlining and paring down is essential if we want to remain in control. It’s a good idea to keep news, sports and social media apps out of sight by relegating them to other screens.”
You heard the man. Create folders on your secondary screens to streamline your smartphone experience. And, by bundling Candy Crush, Angry Birds and Temple Run into one small, little-opened box, you’ll be less tempted to go for a high-score when you’re meant to be working.
3. Update your phone’s operating software
Another basic step — but one that’ll pay dividends. By updating your phone’s operating software, not only will everything run a little faster, but it’ll also wipe your handset of old operating files that were clogging and cluttering up your memory. Turn on auto-updates, and you’ll save even more time in the future.
4. Organise your apps by task or usage
“Everyone’s circumstances will be different,” says Corby. “But, generally, we don’t need to have constant access to our smartphones, or to so many apps and emails.”
It’s best, then, to organise your apps by task — or even how often you use them. By sorting applications in this way, you’ll only be consistently exposed to and presented with the tools you actually need. But, as Corby explains, everyone’s circumstances are different — so it’s up to you to figure out which apps are key to streamlining your working week and wider lifestyle.
5. Clear any superfluous or temporary data
Clearing your browser cache and app data may not be as visually pleasing as cleaning up your home screen, but it will do wonders for the operating speed of your smartphone.
For most handsets, there’ll be an option to ‘Clear Storage’ or ‘Clear Cache’ in your ‘Settings’ — where you’ll also be able to see how much space each app takes up. And if your phone runs faster, you’ll complete tasks quicker — and spend less time on your phone overall.
6. Take time to make your home screen more ergonomic
“I keep my home screen minimal,” says Corby, “containing only the apps that I really need”. He’s not wrong, Corby’s home screen features just seven apps — including Gmail, Calendar and the Met Office weather app. And, by paring down what he sees upon unlocking his phone, The Digital Detox Coach has made his phone more ergonomic to use — and feels less bombarded or stressed by superfluous content.
“Constant access to technology is often linked to an individual’s feeling of increased stress,” he adds. “For example, the merging of boundaries between work and personal life, pressure to be always available, feeling overloaded and not getting enough sleep, all of which can contribute to higher stress levels.”
7. Use cloud storage to your advantage
The cloud — despite its past worrisome data breaches — is a wonderful thing. No longer must we digitally lug around the last five years of photographs — or every document, video or WhatsApp-forwarded meme that’s ever been sent in the group chat.
Instead, we can cast them to the cloud, where they’ll hang around in a secure, virtual limbo until we need to download them back onto our handsets once more. Similarly, your phone shouldn’t be stuffed with songs these days. The era of the MP3 player is long gone — and streaming won’t use up any of your precious, permanent storage.
8. Keep your notifications to a minimum
“We should also only give permission to a few important apps to distract us,” advises Corby on the topic of push notifications. “I’ve limited notifications to text messages and phone calls only, and I have to open other apps for updates.”
It’s an approach that may seem alien to our see-all sensibilities. But you can trust Corby — as a man who has committed his life to providing inspiration, information and motivation to those of us hooked on tech. He knows that a world with slightly fewer ‘pings’ and ‘dings’ is a much calmer, more constructive place to be — and that sounds pretty good to us.
Want more tips and information from The Digital Detox Coach? Learn more from Colin Corby here…
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