But you don't need to turn off your phone or chuck it out a window to get more work done. From scaling back your notifications to timing your tasks, consider these five strategies for using a smartphone while still moving steadily toward your business goals:
1. Prune your notifications.
Your smartphone and many of its apps are designed to grab your attention with various types of notifications -- icons that appear in your phone's status bar, sounds, flashing lights and vibrations.
Whenever your phone notifies you of something, you might not need to immediately respond. Consider whether that alert really deserves your attention. If not, take a moment to figure out whether you can turn that notification off.
To do this, check the settings for the app that's generating that alert. For instance, the local recommendation app Yelp lets you completely turn off all notifications for check-ins and comments related to your Yelp activity. Foursquare's settings also let you turn off all notifications or choose to be notified by e-mail rather than through a status bar icon and sound or vibration.
2. Turn off app auto-sync.
Some apps make it surprisingly hard or impossible to disable visual status bar notifications. But there is one way to control those: Set your apps to sync manually rather than automatically. "App syncing" is when an app accesses the internet to see whether there is new information for you from that service -- such as the Gmail app checking for new incoming e-mail, or Instagram checking whether anyone has liked or commented on any of your photos.
Some smartphones, especially Android, let you do this in the operating system settings, so it applies to all the accounts you use on your phone, including email and social media. Also, most apps let you turn off auto-sync from within the app settings, or specify the auto-sync interval. Setting nonessential apps to auto-sync only once every few hours, rather than every 15 minutes, may help reduce unnecessary distractions.
Aside from minimizing visual distractions, disabling app auto-syncing has two extra procrastination-fighting benefits:
• You get to choose when you want to check email, or Facebook or Instagram -- those apps don't keep nagging you.
• You now must take an extra step to check what's new with those apps -- which might be a helpful hurdle in terms of your productivity.
3. Track your goals.
There are a number of mobile to-do list tools, but these may fuel distraction by reminding you of all the "busy work" that's available to dive into.
If your to-do list doesn't seem to help you focus, try tracking goals instead of, or in addition to, your tasks or projects.
What's the difference? A task might be "Contact client X about overdue invoice." A goal would be "deposit $15,000 in earnings this month." You may find that setting a goal for a certain time period and tracking progress toward it boosts your motivation.
Many apps can help you track goals. On Android, GoalTracker is a free option. On the iPhone, try iGoal By Time (free) or Goal Meter (99 cents). Experiment with various apps to find one that motivates you to act. It helps to keep your goals as simple and concrete as possible.
If you end up using both a goal tracker app and a task manager app, don't duplicate your tracking efforts and create more busy work.
4. Keep tabs on your mood.
If you're stressed, depressed, frustrated, bored or worried, it can be harder to get things done. Apps that help you track your moods can spot patterns and find ways to keep your mental and emotional outlook positive and ready for action.
When using these apps you can usually choose a term that describes your mood from a list of options and specify how long you have felt that way. You can also note what you think triggered that mood, what you were doing at the time or where you were and whom you were with. Some also let you track factors that may relate to mood, such as the time you ate or your sleep patterns.
The apps then provide tools to help you spot patterns. For instance: "Wow, every night I sleep less than seven hours. I feel grumpy the next morning and don't get much done!"
5. Time your tasks.
Time management alone rarely solves chronic procrastination, but it can help. Apps such as TaskTimer (iPhone, $1.99) or PomLife (Android, free) -- or even a simple stopwatch app -- can help you stick to task schedules or tackle big projects a little bit at a time.