The Optimal iPhone Settings and Best Apps for Productivity, Focus, and Health

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Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You

The iPhone could be an incredible tool, but most people use their phone as a life-shortening distraction device.

However, if you take the time to follow the steps in this article you will be more productive, more focused, and — I’m not joking at all — live longer.

Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You

The iPhone could be an incredible tool, but most people use their phone as a life-shortening distraction device.

However, if you take the time to follow the steps in this article you will be more productive, more focused, and — I’m not joking at all — live longer.

Practically every iPhone setup decision has tradeoffs. I will give you optimal defaults and then trust you to make an adult decision about whether that default is right for you.

In addition, because this is a long post, I’ve written it in a way to make it easier to skim. Here’s how to read the post:

  1. Level 1 — Casual. Read the headlines — figure out the details yourself. Most of this isn’t rocket science.
  2. Level 2 — Tutorial. Read the steps underneath the headline. I’ve spelled out every step so that you can save your brain power for something else.
  3. Level 3 — Productivity Nerd. Below the tutorial steps, I’ve included discussion of the behavior design implications. This is for true productivity nerds.

As a bonus, because I know you got excited when you saw this was a seventy minute read, I’ve gone all out on getting pedantic about productivity and even included three appendixes to give an overview of the behavior design principles, to break out the potential financial budget for implementing this advice, and then a real-world example from my own phone.

Also, for convenience, here is a clickable table of contents.

Optimize First for Single Tasking

#1. Turn OFF (almost) all notifications
#2. Hide social media slot machines
#3. Hide messaging slot machines
#4. Disable app review requests
#5. Turn on Do Not Disturb
#6. Be strategic about your wallpaper
#7. Turn off Raise to Wake
#8. Add the Screen Time widget
#9. Add Content Restrictions
#10. (Optional) Use Restrictions to turn off Safari
#11. Organize your Apps and Folders alphabetically

Switch to Google Cloud to Work Faster

#12. Choose GMail
#13. Choose Google Calendar
#14. Replace Apple Maps with Google Maps
#15. Install the GBoard keyboard for faster typing
#16. Switch to Google Photos

Install These Apps for Productivity

#17. Use Evernote for all note taking, to-do lists, everything
#18. The Case for Calm as your go-to meditation app
#19. Install the right goal tracker for you
#20. Store all your passwords in a password manager, probably LastPass
#21. Use Numerical as your default calculator
#22. Put the Camera app in your toolbar
#23. Use this Doppler Radar app
#24. Use this Pomodoro app
#25. Use Brain.fm for background noise

Use These Apps and Configurations for Deep Learning

#26. Subscribe to these podcasts
#27. Install the Kindle app but never read it in bed
#28. Use Safari this way
#29. Organize your home screen for deep learning over shallow learning

Use These Apps and Configurations for Longevity

#30. Track steps this way
#31. Prefer Time Restricted Eating Over Calorie Counting
#32. Schedule Night Shift
#33. Set up Medical ID

Make The Finishing Touches with These Configurations

#34. Change Siri to a man
#35. Change your phone’s name
#36. Turn off advertising tracking
#37. Set auto-lock to the maximum time
#38. Set your personal hotspot password to a random three word phrase
#39. Turn on control center everywhere
#40. Turn on Background App Refresh
#41. Delete Garage Band
#42. Develop verbal memory for talking to Siri
#43. Set up these text replacement shortcuts
#44. Set your address
#45. Backup this way

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Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech.

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