person on phone
Shutterstock

Recently, I found myself sitting on a sunny terrace with some old pals discussing, of all things, whether or not tech helps us or hinders us in keeping our work and our personal lives separate. I know, we should’ve been talking about the wine or our significant others, or something less work-related. But hey, what can I say? We’re all addicted to our phones (conveniently placed on the table where we sat).

The verdict?

We decided that, when used well, smartphones and apps actually help you to stay on top of your work without giving up your life. Not sold on that? My friends and I compiled our best tips to making that statement true.


1. Adjust Your Settings So Only Important People Can Reach You

Just because you can’t be completely out of reach doesn’t mean you have to read—let alone react to —every email. Almost every phone now lets you customize email notifications so that your boss can reach you if there’s a real emergency, but the office manager won’t bother you about the company picnic.

On iOS, you can set up a VIP list so that only messages from the top people in your life set off an alert. Even more exciting is that if you update your iOS, you can also get special alerts for certain email threads. Meanwhile, Gmail on Android lets you choose to only receive notifications for emails with specific categories or tags.


2. Get (Even) More Control of Notifications

If the settings above aren’t enough, you can get fancy with IFTTT automation or an app like Lightflow for Android. They give you even more granular alerts, including customized lights, ringtones, and vibrations. (Oh my!)

Or, switch up your email app itself. Inbox by Gmail takes a novel approach by organizing your emails into groups—each one with its own customizable notifications. So, you can decide to receive all the emails from your office or your bank, but not the ones from your local coffee shop.


3. Play Hide and Seek

I’m a firm believer in “out of sight, out of mind.” So, if you don’t want to be bothered by thoughts of your job when you’re off duty, try keeping the apps you use for work somewhere separate.

On most phones, you can put apps in their own folder by just dragging one icon on top of another. Then you can move those folders to another home screen altogether. With an Android custom home screen like Nova Launcher, you can really hide apps by moving a folder to the dock, and then hiding the dock with a swipe. Work life gone from your phone with one touch (or swipe).


4. Let Your Phone Remember Everything for You

You’ve limited the distractions coming from your phone—but what about the ones that wake you up at 2 AM? You know, questions about your upcoming presentation (“Was it for Monday or Tuesday?”) or concerns about an upcoming vacation (“Did you book the hike?”).

Worries like this can easily be handled in advance if you just remember to keep your calendar and to-do app up-to-date. In addition, you can set reminders for the most important events and tasks. Knowing in the back of your mind that your phone will do the remembering for you really does make it easier to sleep at night.


5. Capture the Thought

When you have a beautiful brainstorm moment while walking your dog or cruising down the highway, your always-with-you phone is the perfect tool. Use it as a catch-all so you can come back to those ideas when you’re at your desk later.

An simple and effective note-taking app for iOS is Vesper. Alternatively, the Drafts 4 app lets you quickly enter text and then decide where to save it.

For Android, Google Keep handles all kinds of input, including speech, photos, and lists, while Evernote offers a range of organizing options like notebooks, tags, and shortcuts.


Today’s tech means that work can be with you wherever you are. But, with the right tweaks and tools, you can keep it under control so that you can be both shine at your job and enjoy a day in the sunshine.