Phone Productivity Hacks

I have a love hate relationship with my phone. It helps me do so much, but it will also suck my life away if I let it!

Over the years I’ve test a lot of phone productivity hacks. Some work for me, others don’t. These are a few of the ways I currently set up my phone so it does more helping and less sucking. 😊

Set up Auto-Backup

Backing up devices is good for productivity and security.

I use Google Photos to automatically backup all my photos, videos, screenshots, etc. Once it’s set up, it starts backing up pictures and video from whatever folders I’ve selected. All I have to do is occasionally open the app and tap to tell it to clear the backed up photos from my device to free up storage.

I use SMS Backup+ to backup all my text messages to Gmail. This is SO great for referencing communication from studio parents. I might remember that they told me about their vacation plans but not remember if it was via text or email. With everything backed up to Gmail, I only have to search one place to find the thread.

Explore Other Launchers

The launcher is the interface used to interact with a phone. Some phone carriers and manufacturers ship their phones with really annoying launchers with bulky widgets and ugly graphics/fonts.

I appreciate good design and being able to customize the launcher to fit my workflow, so if the stock launcher doesn’t fit my needs, I head to the app store to download a new one.

I’m currently using the Google Now Launcher, which is supposed to be retiring at some point. When/if that disappears, I’ll probably go back to another popular Android launcher called Nova Launcher.

Use Voice Commands

Google Now is the Android version of Siri and I use it for everything: sending texts, setting timers, finding directions, adding events to my calendar, finding music/videos during lessons, setting reminders for resources I promise to find for students so I don’t forget by the end of their lesson…, etc.

Speaking is much faster than typing and the results are getting more accurate every day.

Change the Default Keyboard

When I can’t avoid typing, I use a swipe-style keyboard that lets me drag my finger to spell words, rather than tap each individual letter.

Use a swipe keyboard for a day and you will never go back to tap typing! (You will also be insanely frustrated every time you have to use a device that requires tapping.)

Gboard, the default Google Keyboard has been serving me well, and it has the added bonus of a gif library…for when productivity isn’t the highest priority. 😉

Organize Apps by Context

With the use of voice commands, a lot of the hunting previously required to launch an app has gone away, but I still like things to be organized visually.

I use two levels of organization to sort my apps:

1. Organize with Multiple Screens

I have three categories of apps:

  • Apps I naturally use multiple times a day to get my work done (email, calendar, music/podcast players)
  • Apps I should use regularly but won’t if they’re too hard to get to (grocery list)
  • Apps I want to use but shouldn’t (like that addicting Sudoku app… Facebook would be in this category, too, but I resist that temptation by not even having it on my phone.)

Apps in the first two categories go on my home screen where they’re easily accessible. Apps in the third category get hidden away on other screens or in the app manager. (Out of sight, out of mind, yo!)

2. Organize with Folders

The home screen can quickly become cluttered, so that’s where folders come in.

Rather than sorting by category, I sort apps into folders based on context (like “Running” or “Reading” or “Meeting”) and they include all the apps I commonly use when doing those activities.

One of my most used folders (creatively named “Teaching”) includes all my teaching tools (metronome, audio recorder, games).

Put the Phone Away

Honestly, the best tip I know for increasing productivity with a phone is to PUT IT AWAY!

If the presence of my phone is introducing too many distractions or interruptions, I’ll hide it behind my monitor or across the room. Just moving it out of sight is surprisingly effective!

Bonus Tip: Buy Your Phone Outright

This is more of a budget hack than a productivity hack, but it’s worth mentioning here.

A few years back, we switched to a “bring your own device” mobile plan. We save about $25/mo per line and we put that money into a special fund in our budget to buy new phones when needed.

This strategy has saved us money and gives us free reign to choose whatever phone we want, not just the ones that our carrier offers. It might work for you, too!

I’m always eager to hear what others do to stay productive. What are your phone productivity hacks?

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