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If you are up for this, I definitely want to hear from you. The theory is that the browser is one of the addictive slot machines that draws your attention and wastes your time. So I used parental controls to disable Safari. When I tested this, I used Chrome as my occasional browser because the path for removing access again was shorter. There are four ways to organize your apps: by function, by color, by random chance, and alphabetically. The home screen is for tools only.

The second screen is apps organized into folders.

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However, on each screen and within each folder you have to make additional decisions about organizing. You should choose alphabetically. We want to set your phone up so that your rational brain is the boss, and your emotional, addictive, worst-decisions brain is asleep or blocked. The best explanation for this is in the book, Thinking, Fast and Slow or just read the NYT book review for a good overview. The author lays out a model for the brain as having two systems.

The Fast system is our default. The Slow system is what we think of as our rational brain. When I train meditation in my Heavy Mental program , I train a verbal way of moving the thoughts that come up during a meditation into our Slow system. That way we can analyze the thought, and then drop it.


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The entire trick is that activating your language center always activates your Slow system. When you go for an app, I want you to have the actual name of the app in mind. The second good reason is that alphabetical is less brittle.

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Organizing by function is hard because sometimes apps have more than one function. Organizing by app name is intellectually trivial in comparison. For the vast majority of people, the ideal phone setup is to embrace Google Cloud services mail, calendar, photos, maps and pair them with Apple hardware. You can often configure the Apple apps to connect to the Google services.

And Marshall was adamant that every experience he had with clients using automation tools turned out badly. Clients who chose automation were bailing on essential inbox habits. So, paired with the settings above, you should be working on your email habits. That means primarily unsubscribing and blocking aggressively. I filter those into folders and only check those folders occasionally. If you can build this habit, then you can use it to trigger new habits.

In the Tiny Habits method , checking your calendar would be called an anchor habit. The reason I think that will work is because I trust that you will naturally want to check the calendar and weather, thus triggering the new and less natural habit of checking additional widgets. On the short meetings front, this is literally a chance to save yourself hours each day by making the meetings you go to shorter and more focused.

The key to focus is to have a clear goal, and push directly toward that goal. I have one friend, a CEO, who wants the time on his calendar to be as precious as the time on a U. If a meeting only needs seven minutes, then just give it seven minutes. This is yet another example of preferring the Google Cloud. And the custom settings for Home and Work are just small time-savers.

This will let you type faster through swiping. The keyboard will figure out what you mean. At first this will feel a little uncomfortable, but it will quickly become second nature. Gboard, from Google, also has a bunch more features too like GIF and emoji search. Especially with email, you want to avoid reading the same email twice. So if I happen to read a message that needs a response, I want to give that response right away. The main benefit of Google Photos is that the search is amazing. They use machine learning to categorize all of your photos so that you can later search them.

For example, without any work I can find all my selfies by just searching for the word me. And I often pull up pictures of my dogs by searching for dog. I have even had someone pull up photos of a specific handcrafted greenland kayak paddle. For photos, take the following steps. I end up storing my photos in four places: Google photos, iCloud, laptop and Dropbox sync. I should probably take them out of Dropbox. This is an example of where a messy-by-design organization structure beats rigid one. Search is more reliable and faster than you trying to manually categorize every photo.

If you already love your note taking app and to-do list app, then fine, stick with those.

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This is a recommendation where habits beat tools. Put your to-do list in Evernote, either by creating one long note that you edit every day or a new note for each day. Then put all your other notes in Evernote too. What you end up with is a messy but long-term functional system. The other approach, constantly switching apps, systems, and categorization schemes always breaks.


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  • One power of a messy to-do list is that not everything has to be a check list item. You can mix in quick drafts and longer notes to yourself. The problem with most productivity systems is that they break. As a result, a lot of productivity nuts spend a lot of their time creating new productivity systems over and over again. This, obviously, is not productive. For that reason, where possible, I suggest that you choose messy systems over rigid systems.

    A paper notebook gives you incredible flexibility: you can take notes however you want, write drafts, sketch outlines, draw pictures, write to-do lists, etc. All of that is the argument for merging your to-do lists with your notes, and then putting them all into a single cloud-backed note taking system with good search features.

    Although Evernote has advanced features that may or probably may not be a pleasure to use, the basics work well and reliably. I learned to meditate from Headspace. Once you graduate to meditating on your own, Calm is the much better option because of their built-in timer and tracking. I was an advisor in the early days of Calm specifically because of my experience building habit tracking apps. Meditation is a productivity and performance practice. A lot of people talk about meditation as a relaxing or spiritual practice.


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    • The core concept comes from the world of deliberate practice, which is when you identify the components of skills that are important to your success, and then practice those components individually. You should read our full article on Deliberate Practice to get a feel for how to design practice for all important life skills. The first step is becoming aware of where your mind wandered, acknowledging the thought and then putting the thought down.

      Call that Awareness. The second step is bringing your focus back to your point of focus usually your breath. Call that Focus.

      This Awareness-Focus loop is what you are practicing during a meditation session. A lot of people feel bad if their mind wanders during meditation. But you should actually feel good. The more often your mind wanders, the more times you get to practice this Awareness-Focus loop. I tell people what they are doing is mental pushups. The more wandering they do, the more pushups they get in. There are basically two philosophies for how to use a goal tracker. Both involve picking a set of small goals or habits and marking them off in the app each time you do them.

      In the Quantified Self philosophy of goal trackers, you are tracking your goals simply out of curiosity because you want to get more information about yourself. The second philosophy is focused on a goal-oriented behavior-change mindset where you are using the goal tracker for motivation and accountability in order to get yourself to adopt a new behavior and become a better person. So my goal tracker recommendation is for a goal tracker I built.