Do you sit down to do some deep work, only to be distracted by your phone? I used to be the same way, getting more frustrated by not getting things done. In this blog post, I will share the lessons I had to learn to be able to answer the question: How to remove your phone as a distraction.

This is the 3rd post in a curiosity chase on my attention. In fixing my attention deficit and the 30-day update I explore ways to spend my time more intentionally. By removing several available time sinks, I could spend more time doing the things I love. And now I’m ready to take it one step further. The next step in my attention: How to remove your phone as a distraction? Let’s see how deep this rabbit hole goes.

How to remove your phone as a distraction

I was inspired by a post that was recommended by Tim Ferris. He is a big fan of disabling notifications and checking your email only at a specific time of day. The recommended post is on optimizing your iPhone for productivity. It is an in-depth and extensive list of how to make your iPhone work for you, instead of against you.

There are several things I incorporated into my iPhone setup. Some of the points changed how I look at certain things.

Notifications are evil!

What is a notification? A way to get your attention. Usually a random uncontrolled interruption from what you are actually doing.

An example of my notification habit lies in my geography. I’m Dutch. It rains all the time. And as a typical Dutchman, I have several apps to help me go outside without getting wet. I’ve had apps configured to notify me if it was going to rain. But whenever I went outside, I always checked the apps manually.

Disable most notifications

When did I get the most notifications on rain? When I have no intention of going outside and get interrupted from work, blogging, reading, relaxing, etc.

For every notification that you get, ask yourself: “Is this notification worth getting my focus stolen?”.

My advice to you

In the process, I disabled notifications of:

  • All social media
  • Streaming apps like Netflix, Prime, Disney+
  • Food delivery apps, and other Grocery related apps
  • Apps like Strava, Untappd,
  • Utilities like google maps & photos

After I carefully examined which notifications I found worthy of interrupting, I found that they were almost zero. my messaging apps and email are the only ones I allow. Whenever I want to get some work done, I combine it with the part on Focus / Do not disturb mode. Disabling notifications is key in how to remove your phone as a distraction.

The next step for me would be to disable these notifications as well.

Make it easy to do the right thing

In Atomic Habits, James Clear has a principle of friction related to habits. Make it easy to do the right thing, and difficult to do the wrong thing.

Create an environment where doing the right thing is easiest. Reduce the friction associated with good behaviors. When friction is low habit is easy. Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When the friction is high habits are difficult. Prime your environment to make future actions easier”

James Clear in Atomic Habits

You can apply this principle to your phone. Make it easy to do the right thing, and make it take some steps if you do want to go on a social media binge. Personally, this resulted in making it harder to open certain apps without thinking about it. I noticed in the past I would randomly open Instagram whenever my phone lit up.

How can you remove your phone as a distraction? I applied the following to my phone:

  • The screen does not turn on automatically.
  • My non-locked background is black.
  • Time sinks are hidden and have screentime of max 5 minutes per day enabled.
  • Apps that have an equal working website are removed.

Use focus / Do not disturb mode

I noticed that I can get the most amount of work done if I get into a “deep work” mode. Having 2 hours to focus on a subject without getting distracted does wonder for me.

Disabling notifications and making my phone less attractive is a good start to helping me get to deep work. There is one additional step I take whenever I want to go into deep work mode.

I use focus / do not disturb mode on my iPhone and Macbook to make sure I don’t get distracted. This blocked all notifications and delivered them when I stop my deep work. This also includes email and Slack. Disabling slack notifications and going offline spiked a massive fear of FOMO. But after giving it a few small experiments I found out that when I got over that hurdle it worked really well for me.

How to remove your phone as a distraction, use focus mode
Use focus mode to enable deep work

To make sure I don’t miss anything that is actually important I set up the following rules:

  • Everyone close to me knows how to reach me by calling me in case of emergency
  • If someone calls twice in <5 minutes the call goes through.
  • I make sure my Slack status is set, so everyone knows I will be in deep work mode

But what if my coworkers don’t stop calling me about little stuff? In the 4-hour workweek, Tim Ferris has a chapter dedicated to how you can handle these deep work slots, and how to handle it when your co-workers keep calling you.

How to remove your phone as a distraction? Using focus mode to delay notifications will help you be less distracted.


How to remove your phone as a distraction? In my personal experience, it helps to make it less fun. I have poor self-control and need some guide rails to help me stay focussed.

The things that worked for me are:

  • Disable as many notifications as you can
  • Make it easy to do the right thing (Or hard to do the wrong thing)
  • Use focus or do not disturb mode when you go into deep work mode.

In this blog post, I answered the question that plagued me for a while. How to remove your phone as a distraction? I hope this blog post has helped you in the same way as it helped me.

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