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Smartphones: the productivity tools in our pockets

Over 60% of us consider ourselves hooked on devices, and are trying to cut down our usage, although less than half are successful in doing so, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey. And data from Queensland University of Technology has revealed a significant rise in people blaming their smartphones for poor productivity. Queensland researchers refer to this as ‘technoference’: prioritising your phone over other domains of life. We scroll mindlessly through social media, end up in ‘YouTube rabbit holes’, click on link after digital link leading to nowhere in particular, and before we know it, we’ve racked up several hours of screen time. It’s no wonder many of us have come to resent our smartphones, and see them as the greatest barrier to productivity. Dig Detox want to demonstrate that we can convert our procrastination-fuelling devices into powerful productivity tools, by sharing three renowned productivity-boosting apps, with a focus on beating smartphone addiction, scheduling and organisation, and noise.  Forest, an ingenious free app that combats smartphone addiction whilst contributing to the health of the planet, offers users concrete and ethical incentives to stay off their devices during periods of productivity. On Forest, you start a focus period, during which the app plants and grows a virtual tree in users’ individual forests. The longer you spend focused on a task away from your smartphone, the more your virtual tree grows. Users earn more credits for each period of uninterrupted, device-free productivity, and these credits go towards planting real trees around the world. Clocking up 24 hours of screen-free focus time equates to one real tree planted. So far, Forest has planted over 840,000 trees globally. So, productivity via Forest is not only saving you time, but repairing the planet tree by tree.   In busy modern life, it is all-too-common to become overwhelmed with everyday responsibilities (pressing work deadlines, family errands, household chores). We often don’t know what to focus on first, and lose sight of what exactly needs to get done - important tasks can easily slip our minds. Todoist (free for iPhone and Android), one of the most popular to-do list apps in the world, lets users organise and prioritise tasks from their smartphones by entering in tasks, setting due dates, and reflecting on past productivity. It makes reviewing the day (or week) ahead much simpler - over 4 million people rely on Todoist for task and project management every day. Users can split different areas of their lives into ‘Projects’ (such as Work, Health, and Upcoming Events), and add a priority level to each task depending on how pressing it is. Todoist also facilitates collaborative productivity: users can delegate tasks to family, friends, or co-workers. All type of tasks are compiled into a single space, and can be synchronised across all your devices, so no task slips through the net.  Picture this: you’re working in a busy office, surrounded by the commotion of noisy co-workers (or a make-shift home office in close proximity to the bustle of family). Noisli, a free smartphone app and a browser extension, provides users with high quality, customisable ambient sounds to boost focus whilst working. People from all walks of life - coders, writers, and students – use Noisli to drown out unwanted noise and distractions to allow for full immersion in tasks. Noisli offers an array of sounds (ranging from rain, white noise, coffee shop bustle, fan noise, rippling water) which users can mix together and save to create a personalised audible ambience for prime focus and productivity. Ultimately, equipped with apps that encourage - rather than compromise - productivity, as well as some simple tricks to boost our efficiency throughout the day, our smartphones no longer have to be a productivity deterrent, but a valuable tool. Most of our smartphones’ main home screens are filled with apps that invite procrastination (social media platforms, streaming services, games). Rearranging your home screen and having productivity-boosting apps in your visual field when you unlock your phone tricks your brain into spending less time endlessly scrolling, and more time utilising your phone as a productivity facilitator. And it’s no secret that an endless flow of notifications is the number one hindrance of productivity. Our article exploring digital distractions highlighted research that revealed it can take over 23 minutes to refocus after a notification distraction. The solution is simple: turn off push notifications (using the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function) during your focus periods.  This is the second in a series of articles about how technology can improve our health, both mental and physical.  This article was brought to you by Dig Detox. Our mission is to help people use technology safely because we believe health is your most valuable asset. Please visit for more articles, research and information about the movement. By Effie Webb University of Oxford First Published 4th August 2020 SOURCES: Deloitte Queensland University of Technology Forest Todoist Noisli


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