Year-long experiment: a smartphone without distractions

Original author: Jake Knapp
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Translator's note: In 2013, Jake Knapp published a material on his Medium blog about how he came to the decision to remove all programs from the iPhone that could distract and negatively affect productivity in one way or another. The post received a great response from the audience and a year later Knapp published a new text describing the results of the year of life with a “non-distracting iPhone” (distraction-free iPhone).

In 2012, I realized that I had a problem. My iPhone made me nervous - he was lying in his pocket and crying out to me, as the Ring of omnipotence beckoned to Bilbo Baggins. I was constantly distracted by a smartphone - wasting time on it, and not on children and my wife. He distracted my attention always and everywhere. My willpower was simply not enough to be able to ignore incoming emails, not check Twitter or Instagram feeds, and just not see what happened in the world. The phone has become a real "infinity in my pocket", with which I could not do anything.

I wanted to have more control over my time, but at the same time, I did not want to give up the various advantages of the smartphone at all. I liked Google maps, Uber taxi calling apps, or Find Friends friends location. However, it was definitely necessary to do something, so I decided to conduct an experiment. I disabled Safari, deleted my mail account and all the applications that I could reach. In this mode, I decided to exist for a week to start.

Then a month passed, the second, and I began to get more and more pleasure from newfound freedom. I wrote a blog post about the “non-distracting iPhone”, and it was reprinted by major online media (in the end, it collected hundreds of thousands of views). Of course, the majority of readers only wanted to discuss the question of what kind of an idiot I was, because I had come up with something in a situation where you just had to buy a simple phone without extra features.

On the other hand, many people liked my idea - people began to try to conduct a similar experiment themselves. Even some of my friends tried, and most of all I was surprised when my wife followed my example (this is after 6 months of saying that I’m doing nonsense). I was just in shock!

Nevertheless, even a year later, many people continue to ask me whether the experiment is continuing. It continues, and it's time to take some results.


For this year I had to learn to live in boring moments - now my smartphone is a bad assistant, for example, if necessary, to kill time on the road. In principle, I was much less likely to get it out of my pocket. Perhaps I invent everything, but it seems that it has even become easier for me to concentrate on specific tasks throughout the day.

If earlier, for example, on the bus, I would have completely checked the mail, now I listen to music and just look around. I even started to meditate (though I use for this ... Calm application ). It looks strange - an adult man is meditating on a bus using a special application, but I like it more than the desire to constantly update Twitter feed.

At home, the smartphone turns into a detail of the interior and nothing more. At work, carried away by business, I generally forget where the phone is lying - until the start of my experiment, I can’t remember the situation so that I don’t know where my iPhone is.

The surprise was the fact that the experiment did not become a constant struggle with itself. There was no breaking, on the contrary, everything turned out surprisingly easy. Now it seems to me that my past style of using a smartphone required a lot more power than the way I handle it now - just imagine how many things you had to keep track of! All of these alerts, updates, and alerts added a lot of work every day.

24 hour experiment

For those who want to try the “non-distracting iPhone” experiment, I would recommend starting with a duration of days. The setup is quite simple, here is what you will need to do:

Remove Safari

For me, Safari posed a problem because it was a window into the world of endless possibilities of the Internet. At any moment in time there is something mega-interesting and unprecedented on the network. Naturally, you need to go and see this miracle. But things ... five minutes of a break have not harmed anyone.


Of course, Safari cannot be physically removed from the iPhone, but you can deactivate it if you enable restrictions (menu Settings-General-Restrictions). The feeling is strange, as if you do not trust yourself on your own phone.

Delete email client

Another big problem is email. The human brain is designed so that he wants to constantly receive some random rewards. It always seems that you will look into the mail, and THERE is something interesting or at least important (in fact, all interest is usually limited to a letter from the boss).

It is basically impossible to refuse an email, but for my specific work there is no need for an email client on the smartphone. Over the past year, I have taught people to write me messages or call me immediately if they need me for some reason and need a quick response. Bonus - it’s much more difficult for many people to call or write SMS than to compose a letter, so they begin to worry less about trifles.

You cannot delete the Mail application from the iPhone, the easiest way to deal with this situation is to disable the mail account in the settings.

Get rid of "endless" applications

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, the favorite newspaper application (I have the New York Times) - all of them open the door to infinity, consisting of interesting content that can be accessed at any time. That is why this should not be on the phone.

What pleases, in the case of such third-party applications, they are easy and simple to remove in the usual way.

Weigh everything and decide what to leave.

Having decided to radically clean the smartphone’s home screen, then I don’t want to litter it again. Each remaining application fails for any reason - it is a useful habit to ask yourself why this or that application should be on the phone. If a particular tool helps to make life easier, you should save it, and if it’s another “time killer”, then it’s better to leave now.


Total I left the application:

  • Phone
  • Messages;
  • Camera
  • Applications that help me imagine that I live in the future. I created a special folder called Future and put Dropbox, Google Maps, Uber, Rdio, Instacart and similar things there (even the weather forecast application is really very cool if you think about what- then a couple of decades ago everyone went with cassette players and considered this a breakthrough in technology, and now the weather forecast is always in your pocket);
  • Useful things that I rarely use (like the New York subway map);
  • Useless things that cannot be removed (like Passbook or Game Center).

Convenient, not smart phone

This whole experiment left me feeling as if I had let the iPhone into my life, not really figuring out what sacrifices and efforts on my part it would require. I agreed to be connected to the network at any given time, to constantly updating great games, the ability to take and share photos. It's like being in a delicious buffet restaurant - just fine, but it's impossible to stop and not eat more than you need.

Since my job is to help companies create software and hardware, I have to think about such things. When we invest our time and energy in some technologies - as their creators or consumers - we should spend time only on those products and services that are classified as “Future”, and not on those that help us spend time on our lives faster than it should.

Personally, my life flies by the speed of light, but over the past year it has slowed down at least a little.

PS If you notice a typo, mistake or inaccuracy of the translation - please write in a personal message, and I will quickly correct everything.

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