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Making Phones Smart Again

Posted on 9.02.2014

By Amberly Dressler

Today’s obsessive mobile phone usage has given us all a greater sense of urgency. After all, we just might keel over if we don’t check how many people liked our Facebook posts (professional or personal), hit send/receive within our email applications or replied back “k” or “haha” to our latest text messages.

Most of us are guilty of this. In my own household, my 2-year-old son fetches my iPhone frantically if it’s anywhere else other than in my hands – “Oh no, mama’s phone!” That sounds worse in writing.

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In the past, urgency was a good thing. Today, we’re seeing urgency without productivity. It’s not the memes, chats or social reinforcement that we interact with/look for when using the mobile Web that will make us better at our jobs, closer to our family and friends or more-educated people on the whole. What mobile does give us is the power to make our lives more convenient, so we can be better colleagues, friends and parents – the kind of people who focus on one thing at a time (and on doing it really well).

Luckily, a select few have figured out that mobile shouldn’t be a distraction. It should be a tool – essentially making phones smart again. The 30/30 app is one of them. Users can simply set up task lists, the length of time that should be spent on each task and the timer will tell them when to move on. It serves as a good reminder of what users are supposed to be working on and how much time they have left. Not sold? Think about the last time you walked into a grocery store without a list. What happened? Chances are you bought a lot more than what you intended to and forgot what you were supposed to bring home. The 30/30 app works in the same way – it keeps users focused on what they need and less distracted by what they don’t. The caveat is if it’s the weekend and personal time spilled into “catch up on emails” time – turn off the timer.

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Although not for mobile Web browsers yet, Focusbar for Mac users helps prevent multi-tasking. For instance, users type in their tasks and hit start activity. Focusbar shows up on their browsers intermittently, reminding them it’s time to work on what they’ve planned. Additionally, every time they switch to another window, Focusbar will show up – telling users who have started looking at Facebook, for example, that it’s time to get back to work. Who volunteers to create this for mobile phones?

If all else fails, turning off our phones, letting the batteries die, enabling Do Not Disturb, shows the people – or the tasks – in front of us that they matter most in that moment. Don’t worry, our colleagues, friends and even the brands we engage with will be able to reach us – when the time is right.

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