Using Smartphones to be Productive

Random Observation/Comment #282: Ever since I finished Jason Womack’s book, I’ve readjusted my life to focus on working smarter and being more productive.  Unfortunately, this blog, although important, did not make it to the top of my Most Important Things (MIT) list.  The book I’m writing on the side, however, is almost done.  Also, the Stanley cup and Diablo 3 happened. The post about Jason’s book is in the makings.


My parents always ask me, “What are you doing on your phone?” They see the glow of the screen across my face as we’re in the car, at the beginning and end of a meals, while I’m walking in the street, and even when I’m in Hong Kong without any internet access.  What am I doing?

Well, hopefully, it’s not just the normal facebook status updates, emails, and angry birds taking over my life and interrupting precious moments I should be cherishing with family and my natural surroundings. I know that people spend too much time with their heads in technology, which is why I decided to review my smartphone usage. After writing the post, I found something very interesting.

Anyway, here’s a list of indicators mapped to my probable smartphone activity so you know whether or not I’d like to be interrupted. (It’s a bit newb for the parents).

  • Morning quick checks (Takes 5 minutes max)
    • Weather: The Weather Channel – 10-hour view
    • Calendar: Gcalendar – it’s synced with everything and I use it for reminders
    • To-do list: Gtasks – it’s synced with everything and I use it to remember key details
    • Foodspotting: I always take pictures of food so naturally I need to post them
  • No Internet access (Morning commute)
    • If I’m Reading and scrolling
      • News aggregation: Pulse – It automatically updates in the morning and I can read all my rss feeds offline. Google Currents is also a close second.
    • If I’m Typing
      • Email:  Gmail – saves drafts and sending will automate when internet connectivity returns. I usually just use this as an easy text editor. I’ve also written my entire book during this commute as 2-paragraph chapters sent daily.
      • Diary: Gcalendar – I’ve kept a diary for the past 5 years and I write in it every morning.  It started as notes, but I’ve advanced it to actually filling in my previous day’s calendar with activities associated within those hour blocks.  In the 15 hours awake, I will have at least 15 things that I find interesting, inspiring, new, controversial, or funny from the previous day. It also helps your memory if you’re able to start from the beginning of the day and think through all the activities that happened throughout the day.
      • Dailies List (30 day challenge): Mindjet – I’ve been mind mapping for quite some time now and I’ve started using it for this 30 day challenge on keeping a list of 4 categories: 1) Funny (laughter is the best medicine), 2) New (smarter every day), 3) Inspiring (go do things), and 4) Unexpected (don’t always be so sure). I write in my calendar for events first and then I refine it into sentences in the mind map.  If you don’t think of all 4 subjects, I would recommend writing at least one funny quote or or event every morning. You’ll find that you could probably become a comedian with all the funny stories that accumulate.
    • With headphones and typing – listening to music
      • GMusic – syncs with my google music cloud and playlists. I tend to multitask with music when I’m doing any of the typing above.
    • With headphones and intently watching the screen
      • TED Talks – I set up my TED application like a podcast so it downloads the latest talk and I can watch it offline. There’s nothing more inspiring than a TED talk.
    • Intently clicking away
      • Math Workout – this is a stereotypical Asian thing to do, but I do have a math game on my phone. I do it to keep my brain sharp.
      • Sudoku – Again, stereotypical, but it’s fun to find patterns and zone out
  • With internet (because it’s easier to be lazy)
    • Text messaging – this is necessary at times, but can be long winded depending on the person
    • Facebook newsfeed – this is an endless time waster. Yes I know more about all my friends’ days without talking to them, but why didn’t I just talk to them?
    • Checking emails – it’s 80% spam. I spend so much time just deleting emails after wasting time reading them. Time to unsubscribe to email updates.
    • Youtube – the biggest time waster of them all, although it is one of the most enjoyable. I subscribe to the best, of course: freddiew, epicmealtime, fpsrussia, corridordigital, ttCountenance

If you noticed, I am more productive using the phone offline than when it is connected to the Internet. With Internet access, I just get interrupted and all these notifications that haunt me and make my OCD nerves go crazy when I don’t know what it says.  If I hear that message sound, I will probably be distracted with everything else until I check it. If I have internet access, then I’ll want to watch youtube videos because I feel like we’re all pretty lazy.

I know it’s hard to imagine that moment without your smartphone in your pocket or close vicinity, but close your eyes and try.  Your phone is not your pet, and yet you find this urge to constantly check that it’s okay and still loves you (some of you probably also have pets on your phone).  But the main reason I wrote this is to see how big of a role this device plays in my life.  Without it, would I feel naked? Would I feel powerless? Is this my habit or is this my crutch?  

Five years ago, life still functioned and people still learned stuff.  They could remember things without keeping to-do lists and they could keep in contact with people without messaging them every 10 minutes.  And today? Would it be the end of the world if I didn’t know right now?  Probably not.

What you have to remember is that the phone is a tool and you don’t need to be a slave to it.  So you’re right, Mom. Feel free to interrupt me whenever I’m looking down. I can do it later.

~See Lemons Mobile