There’s a life outside your phone

Lewis Gavin
4 min readJan 7, 2019


Ever thought “I want to be more productive but don’t have the time”? Yeah me too. This is how I fixed it.

I analysed how I spent my time, to see if I could find some spare time to do those productive things. I found one of the biggest culprits was my smart phone. The constant vibrate and ping of notifications and obsession with not missing a thing online. Everything from emails, social media notifications and browsing reddit or random article sites.

All these things first distract you with a notification and then engage you with content.

Most apps and websites nowadays are designed — smartly — to be a continuous scroll of information that never never ends.

You scroll and scroll and scroll until seconds, minutes then hours pass by and you’re left wondering how you could possibly be more productive. This post will outline what I love about smart phones but also where I it was holding me back and explain how I resolved it.

Problem 1: So many notifications!

Throughout the course of the day everyones phone pings or buzzes due to a new notification and it’s difficult to not look. At the end of the day, that’s what the notifications are for — to let you know there is something else that requires your attention. However in most cases, these notifications aren’t really urgent. Phone calls are probably the top priority, everything else can wait and be responded to at a later time.


I wanted to give myself two set times in the day where I can spend 30 minutes or so to binge through all the notifications and then leave my phone alone. However I still want to be connected to the internet so I could use Spotify or Podcast Addict and not have to turn the internet back on if I needed to use an app that required internet.

To solve this, I went into all of the social networking, messaging and any other apps that just love to send me notifications and in each app I found the notification settings.

I turned them all off.

All of them. Literally don’t notify me of anything, ever!

I now check my phone once in the morning (usually with a coffee) and again when I get home from work before I have dinner.

Both of these times are deliberately placed as they have something that forces me to put my phone down after a while. In the morning I need to get to work and in the evening, having dinner forces me to put my phone down too.

I also found that a lot of the apps I just stopped using altogether as the content wasn’t actually important to me. Now I’m in control of when I catch up online and which apps get my attention. Simple.

Problem 2: Cluttered Mind

Day to day life can get quite busy. Especially if you’re working throughout the day and are going to the gym or going out for food on an evening, dealing with family life and all the small tasks that can take up your evenings.

If your workload is particularly stressful and you also have a million apps fighting for your attention, it could get quite overwhelming.

So this problem is more focused on the minimalism side. Over time apps have accumulated on my phone and I wanted to cut back to the basics.


So I looked at all the applications I had installed and asked myself “Does this app help me be productive and/or do I enjoy using it?”. If the answer was no, then I went ahead and uninstalled it.

The main one for me was Facebook. Literally nothing on there was of interest to me anymore. If there was something funny like a video, chances were I’d see it elsewhere online or someone would send it via WhatsApp anyway.

Any other applications that had been used rarely I removed and then I set my home screen up with my core applications in the hope to turn my application tray into a rarely used space. My home screen now looks as follows:

My core applications from left to right are as follows:

  • Inbox by Google
  • WhatsApp
  • Sync for Reddit
  • Spotify
  • Chrome

As you can see from the time and date, I actually updated this picture very recently, even though I wrote this article a little while ago. I haven’t changed it as it really has been effective in keeping me focused and removing the clutter.

Like my home screen photo? I recently shot this during my holiday in Thailand. I post Travel and Beer photos on my instagram. Click here to check out my profile.

Wrap Up

I’ve reduced the amount of notifications on my phone and ensured that I can focus entirely on the current activity. It also means I am less likely to just pull my phone out and get distracted, meaning I’m more likely to spend my time being productive and sharing time with friends.

I have also de-cluttered my phone and reduced it down to a set of core applications.

In a future post I’ll be looking at cleaning out spaces that aren’t in the digital world.



Lewis Gavin

Data and Productivity Writer — Data Architect at