Change your settings

The list of what we can't control is long. Many things, from the President to pouring rain, turbulence to taxes, are outside our jurisdiction.

But one area where we can and should exert control is in our settings - particularly on our phones and on our computers. Life is better when we are masters of our technology, not slaves, and taking a few minutes to learn about and customize your settings can have a significant impact on your productivity and also on your positivity. These modifications can save you time and protect you from distraction and aggravation.

Manage your notifications, alerts and sounds. Have you been out to eat with someone whose phone is constantly buzzing or chiming, each time they get an email, a text, or even a like on Facebook? It's distracting, and if they're constantly checking those notifications, rude! Take a few minutes to turn off many of your notifications. Here are instructions for iPhone and Android. In addition to allowing you to be more present with others, it will also allow you to focus better on whatever task is at hand.

Turn off applications altogether. If you work at a desk job, consider closing Outlook for hours at a time so you can focus without that distraction. Even turning it off for thirty minutes can help because during that time you can't be tempted to just switch over to see if an interesting email has arrived. If you have to keep email open, at least turn off your notifications so you don't get interrupted every time a new message comes in.

Reconfigure your home screen. If there are apps that take too much of your time, delete them. If that feels too drastic, at least move them into a folder so they're harder to get to, or reorganize your apps periodically to break you of your routine of clicking on the app without thinking about it.

Set a "do not disturb" time and don't use your phone during those times. My phone is completely silenced (not even any vibration!) from 9:30 PM until 6:00 AM each morning. As a result, I'm more likely to put my phone down during those times. I've also stopped using my phone as an alarm because the snooze is way too accessible, and going to bed - and waking up - with a phone is such a dangerous habit. I'd rather think a little before I start consuming stuff online.

Set up text replacement. One of my favorite settings is found on an iPhone under Settings - General - Keyboard - Text Replacement. (Here's where it is on Android phones.) This allows you to create shortcuts for words, expressions or whole sentences you use all the time. In Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, you'll find this under AutoCorrect. Think about what you typically abbreviate and then program in the shortcuts. Examples? On my phone I have shortcuts for my email address, a happy birthday message with emojis; on my work computer I use "mgr" for manager and "dev" for development - and dozens of others. This saves time and also helps improve spelling on whatever I send.

A key time management strategy is to focus on what you can control - and not spend time worrying about things you can't. Some distractions are outside of our control, but plenty of others are if we get our settings right. And other settings save us time and energy. Are there valuable settings changes I've missed? Please send them to me at

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