How often do you check your phone?
According to Gallup, 72% of smartphone users in the U.S. check their smartphones at least once an hour — often more.
Even when the notifications aren’t distracting us, we still can’t leave our phones alone. They pull us away from deep, focused work. They’re at the dinner table, killing the vibe with friends and family. They’ve even been shown to disrupt our sleep at night.
So, smartphones are bad, right? They’re killing us?
Not necessarily. Smartphone addiction is real, but it’s just the latest in a long line of tools that can be positive or destructive, depending on the user.
And since they’re a reality of how we live and work now, it’s up to us to figure out how to steward their use well so they can enrich our lives instead of harming them. With that in mind, I asked the StoryBrand team to share some of their favorite smartphone apps that help them live and work more intentionally. So consider removing some of those timesuck apps (sorry, Candy Crush) and trying some of these instead.
For 80% of people between the ages of 18-44, the first thing they reach for in the morning isn’t an alarm clock or a toothbrush. It’s their smartphone. Before even getting out of bed, they’re off to the races, checking emails.
Instead of opening your inbox in the morning, use the Mindfulness app to get in the habit of starting your day with five minutes of quiet or meditation. It will help you dive into your day with a clear head and a peaceful heart. This app helps one of our staffers to not check any social media until 10:00 a.m. It keeps her from starting off her day with comparison or anxiety.
This is a great way to help you build moments of rest and quiet into your day, which, as we learned on last week’s podcast episode with Juliet Funt, can do wonders for your creativity at the office.
I know how it goes. When you want to implement a new habit into your life, you do really well with it for a few days, while it’s fresh. But it easily slips to the back of your mind. You lose momentum, and you never experience the change that comes from the new habit.
But if you can keep your new habits more visible, you’ll be more consistent. And those little incremental wins will add up to major achievements.
This app helps you log, track, and measure any kind of goal or habit. Set a daily habit of making your bed, log it when you do it, and see how long of a streak you can make. Use it to manage any goal that has a number associated with it (and see if you’re on track to meet it). It can even help you track and eliminate bad habits, like your afternoon junk food fix. You can schedule reminders at specific times that work with your schedule, so you don’t get distracted during family or focus time.
Need to clean up your inbox? We all end up on more lists than we intend to, and the result is that we have a cluttered inbox full of distracting, irrelevant emails. It’s an unnecessary timesuck to delete them, but it’s even more time-consuming to unsubscribe from them all.
So unroll.me is incredibly handy because it allows you to see all your email subscriptions in one place. You can keep the ones that are useful to you and opt out of the ones that aren’t. Plus, you can have the ones you want “rolled up” into a single daily digest. That means you can consolidate your time by reading important emails on your own schedule. It’s a great way to manage your inbox (rather than your inbox managing you).
4. 1 Second Everyday
Apps like Instagram can help you record your life, but sometimes it feels more like a stylized “best of” sizzle reel than a documentation of what your days are really like. And it’s easy to over-document our lives at the expense of actually being present in them.
So 1 Second Everyday, which the creator calls a “modern day visual diary,” takes a one second of video from each day and helps you stitch it together into a documentary of your own life. It allows you to review your month, look for trends, and cultivate gratitude for all the good things you’ve experienced.
The app reminds you to take a video each day at a time you specify. Then, you can make simple edits for each day. The app does all the work of putting them together. And it’s private, so you don’t have to share this with anyone if you don’t want to.
Our COO Tim has been using this app daily for almost 4 years. Here’s an example from his life, July-December of 2016. Spoiler alert: Tim’s dog is very cute.
5. Apple Reminders (with a twist)
If you have an iPhone, you may have used the Reminders app for quick to-dos. But it’s good for much more than grocery lists.
One of our staffers uses it to remind him of moments he want to remember later. For example, his daughter came to the office on her birthday to have lunch with him and said that was her favorite part of the day.
To remember sweet moments like that, he says, “Siri, remind me in 3 months that my daughter’s favorite part about her birthday was getting to see me.”
Three months later, he gets an unexpected reminder that pulls his head out of the whirlwind of work. It’s an easy way to communicate with your future self, whether you want to remind yourself of something important or send yourself some encouragement.
Unchecked, the way you use your smartphone can definitely set you back, causing you to work with less focus and taking you out of the present moment with your loved ones.
These apps aren’t a silver bullet. It takes your own personal commitment and values to really live and work with intention.
But it doesn’t have to be the enemy. With some intention and self-control, your smartphone can help you simplify your life, reach important goals, and create real connections with yourself and those you love.
And that’s the key: just like smartphones aren’t the enemy, these apps aren’t a silver bullet. It takes your own personal commitment and values to really live and work with intention. But I hope this list gives you the right tools you need to go for it.