I put off the seemingly inevitable adoption of a smartphone for years.  When I finally did succumb, in no small part to an incomprehensible offer from my provider, I mused how incomprehensible it was to have delayed this long.  After the obligatory initial fascination with downloading apps that were more useless than a chocolate teapot, I hunkered down and converted my newly procured triumph of technology into the productivity tool I hoped it could become.    Using the new Wunderlist 2 (with subtasks!) and the native Voice Memo app to implement my hacked GTD system, my iPhone has, in itself, become all I need to stay organized and get things done.  There is just one problem:  It’s desperate for attention.

Between push notifications, and our obsession with knowing now, our lives have become more fractured than ever.  A productive approach to any task requires absolute focus.  Smartphone-induced interruption can drastically lengthen completion times, and drastically reduce quality of work.  Some configuration ideas:

  • Turn off email push notifications
  • Limit audio alerts to alarms or calendar items
  • Check email, social at scheduled times; if possible, once a day
  • Refuse to curate ANY content (weather, news, sports, stocks) that is not absolutely necessary
  • Refuse to play games that send alerts or push notifications

The inherent danger is not so much that we are not as productive as we could be, but that our capacity for concentration and reflection becomes severely impaired or irrevocably damaged.  That is too high a price to pay.