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13 Productive Things To Do On Your Phone (Tips + Tricks)

There’s an infinite number of productive things to do on your phone, but unfortunately many of them fall into the category of being unproductive and mindless.

The apps and platforms on our phones have one goal — keep our attention hooked for as long as possible.

The longer we stay, the more money they make. The problem is that their goal is often in direct conflict with our desire to make progress towards our long-term goals.

My goal in this article isn’t to convince you to throw away your smartphone, rather to suggest some productive things to do in order to leverage it as a tool for personal growth.

Let’s dive in!


What Can You Do On Your Smartphone To Be Productive?

Your smartphone is a tool — one of the many in your arsenal that you can leverage to improve your life. 

Yet, the accompanying platforms that reside on your smartphone are driven by algorithms far too advanced for our brain to outsmart. There’s literally entire departments inside companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest that are dedicated to one key objective — to make the platform as addicting as possible.  

Our brains haven’t quite caught onto the idea that not every status update or text message deserves our attention. 

That’s because brains love novelty. New experiences stimulate our brains and trigger the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter response for feelings of well-being. 

Smartphones offer endless novelty even though we’re generally doing the same thing: 

  • Each time you open Instagram, there’s new photos to look at.
  • Each time you open Facebook, there’s new status updates to check.
  • Each time you open Twitter, people are talking about new things.
  • Each time you open your email, there’s fresh correspondence waiting for you.

Each time we pull out our phone, there’s a chance that we’ll have a new, unique experience that was different from the last one.

Our brain’s desire for novelty and the convenience of our smartphone is why we sometimes feel like drug addicts who need their fix. 

The drug addict comparison may seem a little brash, but if you’ve gone a full day without your phone before then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Despite everything we’ve just talked about, there are several positive things to do on your phone that do move the needle in your life.

We’ll discuss specific actions in the next section of this article, but generally here are a few ways that your smartphone can be leveraged for good:

  • Improved Personal Relationships: There’s no denying the fact that when used properly and in moderation, our smartphones can be powerful tools for maintaining social bonds and forming new ones. 
  • Productivity: Your smartphone is only the kryptonite of your productivity if you see it that way. Several apps and features on your phone can help you manage your day and use your time more efficiently.
  • Learning New Information: It’s never been easier to become educated about a certain topic that you’re interested in. Audiobooks, podcasts, and Youtube videos all offer the opportunity to expand the scope of your knowledge in any given field.
  • Accountability: One of the most useful things to do on your phone is to turn it into your own personal accountability partner. With subtle nudges each day about the type of person you’re committed to becoming, you’ll be more likely to take action.


woman on her iphone


13 Productive Things To Do On Your Phone

The rest of this article is going to outline a simple list of productive, purposeful ways that you can use your smartphone.

Some of these behaviors will be one-time actions, and others will be daily practices that require maintenance and consistency. 

Here’s a list of thirteen productive things to do on your phone that you can substitute in place of mindless behaviors that don’t improve your life.


#1: Purge Your Email Inbox

One of the most unnecessary and overwhelming sources of clutter in our lives is our email inbox.

If you open your email inbox right now, you’ll probably notice a bunch of junk that simply does not deserve your attention.

Whether it’s the newsletter you signed up for months ago but haven’t cancelled, or the list of stores letting you know about their latest sale, most of our email inboxes are defined by distraction.

Next time you find yourself with some time to kill, try purging some of these useless emails so you can make space for the important stuff. Simply unsubscribe from the email lists and newsletters that don’t add any value to your life, and keep the ones that do.

The less junk you have in your inbox, the more time you’ll have to focus on high-priority action items.


man pointing at his email


#2: Remove Filler Apps

While you’re purging your email inbox, you might as well apply the same philosophy to your home screen. If you’re like me, you’ve probably downloaded a bunch of apps that you never even use.

Removing these apps is one of the easiest things to do on your phone to reduce unnecessary clutter and minimize your life.. Go through the apps on your phone and ask yourself, “Is this app adding any kind of value to my life or is it just taking up space?”

Once you’ve purged the unimportant, you can take things a step further by making your most important apps the easiest to access.

Move these to the very first page of your home screen so that they’re always right in front of you after entering your passcode.


#3: Record Big Ideas

One of the most productive things to do on your phone is to take advantage of key insights that enter your conscious mind throughout the day.

Each day, we’re pampered with thousands of thoughts. Most of them simply serve to add noise and chaos to our lives, but every once in a while you’ll strike gold. 

I vividly remember the day that the idea popped into my head to start a motivational Twitter account. I was walking back to my apartment after a lecture, and out of nowhere my brain served up an idea:

“You’re already super interested in self-improvement, why not start a social media account that motivates people and see how big you can grow it?”

I immediately pulled out my phone, scrolled over to my “Big Ideas” notepad, and wrote down “Consider starting a motivational Twitter account.”

A few days later, I found myself reviewing some of the big ideas that I had recorded over the past several weeks, and it was that night that I decided to act on one of them. 

A little over three years later, that motivational account I started while laying in bed now has over 157,000 followers.


picture of a twitter account


Would things have unfolded this way even if I didn’t record the moment that thought entered my mind? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I didn’t create the account until I reviewed my list of “Big Ideas.”

If you’re reading this right now, you likely have ambitious goals, and a variety of different paths you can take to achieve those goals. 

All day long, your subconscious mind is operating in service of these goals — providing useful information about how to proceed.

All you have to do is listen and separate the noise from the important stuff. 

Big ideas are fleeting. It’s easy for moments of brilliance get lost in the chaos of our day to day lives, so you want to be prepared whenever your inner genius speaks.


#4: Listen To An Audiobook

The never-ending pursuit of information is one of the key habits of successful people. The more you learn, the more you earn.

That last bolded sentence is a quote from one of the most successful investors of all time, who also happens to be a voracious reader, Warren Buffett.

It was once reported in Inc Magazine that Warren Buffet reads for six hours every single day, consuming about 500 pages of new information every 24 hours.

Furthermore, a recent survey conducted by Fast Company asked hundreds of CEO’s about their reading habits. The results showed that the average CEO reads about 60 books per year, which comes out to about five per month.

The bottom line is that successful people read a lot. And when they do read, it’s with a purpose — usually to stay on the cutting edge of their industry and learn from other smart people.

Although a regular reading habit does play a role in becoming successful, it’s often hard to find time to read throughout the day, and that’s why audiobooks are such an awesome tool.

Audiobooks allow you to read some of the best self-improvement books of all time while you’re sitting in traffic, getting a workout in, folding laundry, etc.

If you’re struggling to find the time to sit down and read, then audiobooks offer hassle-free knowledge that you can use to up your game in any area of your life. 

If you’re interested in developing certain skills related to self-improvement, the following articles will suggest some of the best options for each category.


book with headphones on top of it


#5: Try Blinkist

For all of the benefits that a daily reading habit offers, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a time consuming process.

A service like Blinkist is a perfect way to consume knowledge quickly — without spending the 6-8 hours required to finish a compelling book.

On the homepage of their website, Blinkist proclaims that their service is, “Perfect for curious people who love to learn, busy people who don’t have time to read, and even people who aren’t into reading.”

They deliver on this message by offering concise summaries of popular non-fiction books so you don’t have to go through 300 pages to get the main principles.

These summaries can be consumed in just 15 minutes, and they have an extensive library of books that contains over 5,000 titles.

Using Blinkist is one of the most productive things to do on your phone if you consider yourself to be an ambitious learner who can’t seem to find time to read.


#6: Listen To A Podcast

Podcasts are another rich source of information in today’s world. The great thing about podcasts is that like audiobooks, they can be consumed passively. 

Before heading into the gym. I always make sure to queue up a podcast involving some of my favorite industry experts.

My advice is to pick 2-3 people in your field that you want to learn from and focus on listening to those people. Given that my interests revolve around personal development tools , my three go-to experts are James Clear, Tim Ferriss, and Nir Eyal.

Once you’ve got your three go-to-people, go to the search bar of your podcast platform of choice and type in these three names. Typically, you’ll see a list of podcasts that these people have appeared on in the past. 

Whenever you find yourself doing something that doesn’t require total concentration, listening to these podcasts in the background can help you accomplish two things at once.


#7: Send Check-In Texts To Your Friends

Friendship isn’t about grand gestures, it’s about small kindnesses that compound over time to create meaningful bonds. The small stuff like keeping in touch, responding promptly, and providing words of encouragement go a long way towards building a network of people who care about you.

So the next time you have a few minutes, pick someone from your contacts and shoot them a quick check-in text. Simply check in with them about their life or better yet, try to make future plans to get together with them.

If you want to be a bigger part of other people’s lives, then you need to make people a bigger part of your life. The 60 seconds it takes to craft a simple hello to a friend pays huge dividends for the quality and depth of your personal relationships.


man texting his friends


#8: Set Reminders & Deadlines

One of my biggest flaws is that I get scatterbrained. When I sit down to write, I can work for hours on end with very little lapse in concentration. 

But if you knew how often I forget to transfer washed clothes to the dryer, or call people/companies back at a specific time/date, you’d think I was the least focused person in the world.

It’s embarrassing the amount of money that’s vanished from my bank account because I didn’t cancel a free trial before the billing date kicked in.

Nowadays, these kinds of slip-ups are less frequent because of the “Reminders” app on my phone. I’m still not perfect, but since becoming a religious adopter of this tool, I’m significantly better at remembering to follow through on prior commitments.

Every day, we’re bombarded with to do’s, meetings, and notifications — these are the kinds of interruptions that lead to forgetfulness as we’re constantly switching from task to task.

So whenever you become aware of something important that requires your attention, don’t just hope that you’ll remember to do it. Use the reminders app as a way to reduce the margin of error in your day to day life.


#9: Cut Dead Weight From Your Twitter Feed

One of the most potentially distracting things to do on your phone is opening up your Twitter feed. What starts out as a quick pulse-check on the world’s events can easily turn into 30 minutes of mindless scrolling.

The type of content you consume often influences your future thoughts. So if you’re gonna spend time scrolling, it’s probably a good idea to ensure that the tweets you scroll past add some sort of value to your life.

I find Twitter to be a great source of inspiration for my work, but that’s because I’ve carefully selected the type of content that shows up in my feed.

The people I follow tend to be experts in topics like habits, productivity, and positive psychology. In other words, almost all of the content that shows up on my feed is adding value to my personal and professional life.

If you want to curate your Twitter feed so that it has a net positive impact on your life, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What subjects do I want to learn more about that will advance my personal and professional development?
  • Who are the best people to follow in this field?
  • Is there any dead-weight content that has no utility in advancing my personal and professional development? Who tweets this content?

If you want to become a better salesperson, curate your feed accordingly by following some of the best salespeople in the world.

If you want to get in better shape, try following some of the top fitness accounts on Twitter. (and maybe unfollow that account posting savory dessert recipes every single day).

This is one of the most productive things to do on your phone because of the long-term compound effect of consuming positive content that aligns with your goals.


#10: Turn Your Lock Screen Into Motivation

“Yesterday you said tomorrow.”

That’s what I see on my lock screen every single time I turn on my phone. This means that throughout the day, I get a gentle nudge that reminds me to avoid procrastination and prioritize my long-term goals.

When it comes to success, small 1% changes make all the difference. Each aspect of your environment is a lever that you can pull to tilt the odds in your favor.

Changing your lockscreen to something motivating is one of those levers. Does it guarantee that you’ll always take action and discipline yourself to do  the right things? Of course not, but it does help reinforce the type of person you’re trying to be.

After all, you’re gonna see a lot of your lockscreen on any given day, why not make it something inspiring?


#11: Use Apps To Track Your Habits

Continuing on with this list of productive things to do on your phone, we have the time-tested strategy of keeping your daily commitments visible.

Building good daily habits is an essential component of success. However, many of us are vague with our intentions when it comes to habits. We say things like…

  • I’m going to workout 4 times per week
  • I’m going to meditate for 10 minutes every day.
  • I’m going to call someone from my social circle every day.
  • I’m going to write for an hour per day

It’s great to make these declarations, but usually we forget one of the most crucial principles of consistent actionholding ourselves accountable to these intentions.  

Enter habit tracking apps. Habit tracking apps are so useful because they give you a visual representation of your progress. 

Building up streaks in these apps can be quite addicting as well. You’re much more likely to stick with a particular behavior if you look at your calendar and see a 10 day chain of success going for you.  

A simple glance at your progress might offer that extra dose of motivation you need to force yourself to the gym, or hit your word count for the day.     

There’s a bunch of habit tracking apps out there, but the two that I recommend are Habitify and Strides. I currently use Habitify to track my habits simply because I like the interface better but this is just personal preference — either of these apps will get the job done.


habit tracking notebook


#12: Craft A Productivity Playlist

This is one of those productivity tips  that won’t be practical for everyone — skip right past this section if you prefer to work in complete silence.

However, if you enjoy a little background music while you work, spend some time crafting a soothing playlist that will help you relax and be productive at the same time.

Take the guesswork out of finding the right songs for your work blocks and create that you can just hit shuffle on.


#13: Keep Your Brain Sharp

Another one of the most productive things to do on your phone is to leverage it to keep your brain sharp. 

There are a variety of mobile games that you can play that are designed to promote improved concentration and better problem-solving skills.

  • Digital Crossword Puzzles: Crossword puzzles keep your brain active and enhance your cognitive and analytical abilities. 
  • Digital Sudoku: Sudoku is a game of numbers mostly emphasizing pattern recognition and active observation. It requires you to make connections and plan ahead, improving short term memory and concentration. 
  • Luminosity: Luminosity is a brain training website that now has over 70 million users. The games and exercises are based around cognitive neuroscience, meaning they’re designed to improve your mental flexibility and problem-solving skills.


soduku puzzles


Final Thoughts: Productive Things To Do On Your Phone

I hope that you enjoyed this article highlighting thirteen productive things to do on your phone.

The next time you have time to kill, use this as an opportunity to replace mindless activity with something positive that moves your life forward.

Get rid of the junk from your inbox. Send a simple check-in text to one of your friends. Keep your mind sharp by playing some Sudoku. Listen to a compelling, insightful podcast or non-fiction book.

Each one of these actions accomplishes the same goal — making your phone a productivity tool instead of a productivity obstacle.

Your smartphone is an amazing piece of innovation that can help you live a more productive, less cluttered life, but it can also sabotage this goal as well. 

It all comes down to how you use it, and the choice is completely yours.

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