These days, it’s popular to talk about all the ways people are addicted to their smartphones and how they should use them less. But is it really that bad? Could your smartphone actually make you more productive in a healthy way?
Not long ago, Mihir wrote about how smartphones can affect your body and your mind, but what about how much smartphones can boost your work and life productivity? What about how much extra time you can save each day by using your smartphone to do multiple tasks at once? What about how much healthier you can get by taking care of your body while also getting work out of the way?
In this article, we’re going to blow away the entire premise that smartphones are addictive, unhealthy or otherwise bad for you. We’re going to look at how you can optimize the use of your smartphone so that you can get even more out of your daily life.
Work While Eating
It’s true that a lot of people let smartphones take over their lives, and yes it may be possible for them to ruin your life, but they don’t have to. I’m not suggesting that everyone should take out their smartphone during the family dinner — that is actually a pretty good example of how smartphones are ruining family life.
But if you think about the times you find yourself eating alone, and you may not realize just how many minutes out of your week or month that you’re wasting just staring at your food, taking a bite at a time. Why not get some work done?
The only limitation you’ll have to face trying to work on your smartphone while eating is that you only have one hand available. That’s not conducive to things like email or chatting, but there are plenty of things you can get done with just one hand. You can do things like:
- Trip planning with Google Maps
- Photo editing
- Social networking
You may not consider gaming to be “productive”, but it’s actually a fantastic way to reduce stress during your meals, and reducing stress will always make you more productive in the long run. Consider Harry’s list of some great one-handed games to play for a few ideas to get started.
If gaming isn’t your thing and you’d like to plan out your travels while you’re eating, you can do it easily with Google Maps, thanks to a convenient one handed zoom feature. The trick is just to double tap on the map, but on the second tap leave your finger pressed on the screen. As you move your finger up and down, the map will zoom in and out.
Photo editing is a cinch one handed as well. There are even a few great apps to make the task even easier. Pip Camera Photo Editor, available on Google Play or iTunes, has all sorts of great editing features and is well known for its ease of use with one hand.
Camera 360, available on Google Play, is another great one-handed photo editing app. It’s not quite as professional – it’s a silly editing app meant to let you create silly stickers — but it comes with 10 professional photo adjustment functions that only require you to swipe your finger around to use. So while you’re snacking on lunch, edit away!
By the way social networking is the thing you prefer to get done while you’re eating, Omni Swipe for Android is a fantastic app to install.
It lets you monitor all your social notifications from one screen, and with a swipe of your thumb you can open up any app on your phone. If you want to boost your one-handed productivity at every meal, this is an app for you.
Productivity on the Phone
When you’re talking on the phone, it’s a whole different ballgame. You do have two hands, but your mind is going to be distracted by the phone conversation. Is it possible to multi-task with your smartphone when you’re talking on a landline or while you’re using a headset to talk with your smartphone?
The answer is, definitely. Don’t expect to have a text chat with friends on social networks, or to write a novel, but there are lots of productive things you can do with your phone while you’re talking.
- Check the weather forecast
- Review your schedule
- Scan the news
As you can see, these activities don’t require a whole lot of brain power, but you can still get a lot accomplished.
When it comes to weather apps for your Android, we’ve got you covered. Dan listed seven of them on Android for you to make use of, and Tim listed seven storm tracking apps for iPhone. Of course Siri, Google Now, and Cortana are excellent for getting a quick overview of the weather as well.
When it comes to checking and re-organizing your schedule while you’re talking on the phone, there are few apps as useful as the ToDoist mobile app.
There are lots of other great to-do list apps for Android that you’ll want to check out if managing your time on your mobile sounds like something up your alley. There are also some fantastic list-keeping apps for iPhone as well.
If you prefer to focus more on scanning news headlines while you’re talking on the phone, check out news reader apps for Android, or news feed readers for iOS.
Work While Flying
When you want to work while you’re on the plane, it’s a whole different ballgame. These days, most airlines let you purchase wireless internet access so you can use your laptop or your phone while you’re on the plane. It’s not only convenient; it’s crazy productive. Gogo Inflight is the most common in-air wireless service offered by many airlines.
Personally, I find trying to work with a laptop propped up on the tray in front of me to be a real pain. Usually, you don’t have enough elbow room to properly type on your keyboard anyway, so why bother.
It’s much better to take out your fully charged smartphone and use it to get some work done. But what kind of work can you get done with it? Well, with two-handed, landscape-viewing use, you can actually get a whole lot done.
- Do some blogging
- Browse the web and capture favorite sites
- Take notes and brainstorm
- Use mind-mapping to plan out projects
Whether you’re looking to blog with your Android or your iPhone, there are lots of choices available. If you just want to get started fast and happen to have a WordPress blog, the WordPress mobile app is definitely the way to go.
Using the on-screen keyboard in landscape view, you’d be surprised how fast you can type up a post using two thumbs.
If you’re just looking to browse for interesting web pages and then read them later when you have more time, you can’t go wrong with Pocket, Instapaper, or Flipboard just to name a few that are available on most mobile platforms.
If you need more options, make sure to check out Aaron’s extensive list of 9 apps that help you save webpages for later.
When it comes to taking notes or brainstorming, you probably don’t want to be doing that with your voice while you’re on a five-hour flight. Have no fear, we’ve covered lots of highly-productive note taking apps you can use on a long flight, whether you’re looking for Android note-taking apps, or ones for iPhone.
You can use note-taking apps during a long flight to:
- Plan out your groceries for when you arrive at your destination
- Plot out your itinerary
- Brainstorm ideas for work
- Write a story
Mind mapping apps are another great tool for brainstorming ideas, but in a more visual way. It’s surprising how many brainstorming apps there are for mobile devices. Saikat outlined some awesome mind-mapping apps for Android recently, not the least of which is Simplemind, one of my personal favorites.
Kayla also listed 8 diagramming apps that are awesome for this purpose as well. And if mind-mapping on the plane with an iOS device is your cup of tea, we’ve got you covered there too with mind-mapping options for the iPad.
Work While Driving
Is it possible to get work done with your smartphone while you’re driving? Most people would say, “Put the phone away if you’re driving”. For the most part that’s true, but if you can talk and drive at the same time, then you can actually make pretty good use of your long commute.
Before you get started with this, you’ll need to make sure you have a good Bluetooth headset for the job.
Here are all the ways that your phone can make you more productive via voice control:
- Sending or receiving text messages
- Sending or receiving emails
- Write blog posts
- Check the weather or the news
- Learn about anything
There are many different apps that will help you accomplish any of the above, but one of my personal favorites is Google Now. Earlier this year, I wrote about all kinds of amazing things you can do with Google Now while you’re driving, not the least of which is sending emails to people just by commanding Google Now to do so.
Angela wrote about speech to text tools that let you do things like write entire blog posts, emails or letters just by dictating them out loud and sending them to your email to send or post later. Christian shared 4 other Android voice control apps, and of course with iPhone you just have to make use of Siri to accomplish most of the tasks listed above.
Work While Exercising
Working while flying or driving is one thing, but trying to get actual work done when you’re exercising is a whole different animal. Usually, you’ll be in a gym where it’s too loud for you to use voice control apps. You’ll likely have your hands busy so you can’t type or tap the screen. So is there anything you can accomplish while exercising?
Well yes, actually there is. Out of the 15 productive tips Saikat listed recently, almost half of them you can do while you are exercising. Just a few examples include:
- Learn something new
- Practice speed reading
- Watch a TED talk
- Learn a new language
- Improve your memory with memory games
All these things only require that you watch something on the screen — which is easy to do while you’re walking on a treadmill, using an elliptical, or pedaling a stationary bike.
Using Your Phone Isn’t Bad
As you can see, always using your smartphone doesn’t have to be unhealthy or horrible, especially if it lets you multiply the time you have available in the day. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t put your phone down and spend more time with your kids or your wife, but if you’re somewhere where you’ve got nothing better to do, then why not whip out your phone and get something productive done!
What do you think? Do you know of other productivity “hacks” you can do with your phone to be more efficient with time? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments section below!