11 Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling

How Much Time Should You Really Spend on Your Phone?

With the average American adult spending over 7 hours on screens daily, it’s normal to question your smartphone use.

Yet tracking duration alone overlooks quality behind quantity. The goal is to help you get the most out of your digital interactions, transforming them from time-sinks to intentional and productive moments of learning and organization.

This guide shares ideas to help you ditch mindless scrolling. Shift your relationship with your device to serve rather than subvert your aims. Recast your phone from the distraction station into a personal hub for mindful creation with my personal list of 11 productive things do to on your phone.


This guide flips the script on phone use gone mindless.

Instead of tracking durations, transform each minute into an intentional tool for self-betterment. Block distractions, embrace education through podcasts, learn languages, declutter apps, and try meditation.

Repurpose your device from a hollow highlight reel to a purposeful infrastructure for focused growth. Reclaim your focus and attention on what truly matters.

How much screen time is bad for you?

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: How much screen time is bad for you?

While the average American clocks in around 7 hours in front of screens daily, experts recommend adults cap non-work-related screen use at under two hours.

Yet, it’s not just the quantity of time on your phone that matters, but the quality. Listening to an informative podcast or audiobook while walking your dog is very different from mindlessly doom-scrolling social feeds.

Rather than tracking for how long you’ve been using your phone as a whole, pay attention to how you actually use your device. In fact, research shows that moderate smartphone use—a few hours a day—can correlate with better well-being compared to no use at all.

Can you be productive while using your phone?

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: Can you be productive while using your phone

Absolutely—that’s why they’re called smartphones. We already depend on them to keep us organized as calendars, alarms, reminders, and personal assistants. The problem isn’t that phone use can’t be productive; it’s that we often use them mindlessly without clear goals.

First, notice which phone activities distract you most from achieving your aims—certain social media feeds? Shopping apps? Your inbox (that’s definitely one of mine!)? 

Then, tailor your phone to discourage those habits and support your goals. Delete or hide tempting apps, use blockers, and reorganize your home screen. Creating tension and making bad habits inconvenient help to reprogram your habits.

The key is transforming your device into an asset that aligns with your aims, not one that derails them. Define intentions before picking up your phone, whether it’s exercise music or reading an e-book.

10 Productive things to do on the phone instead of social media

Social media apps dominating the use of your phone doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are many productive ways to use that time instead to better yourself and make better use of your time.

Below, I share my favorite useful things to do to help you ditch the habit of endlessly scrolling feeds and make you more productive. Try a few and find the best ways to transform your device into a tool for self-improvement rather than a distraction.

1. Organize your day

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: Organize your day

One productive way to use your phone is as a digital scheduler to organize your day. Native or third-party calendars like Google Calendar allow you to map out activities and set reminders and notifications so nothing slips through the cracks. Want to establish better routines? Choose from many apps available to build scheduling, prioritizing, and organizational skills.

Outlining a daily to-do list provides a structure for tackling top priorities and getting things done efficiently. Keep track of personal and professional tasks, from doctor appointments to project due dates. Identify 1-2 must-complete items to focus on what matters most. Cross them off as you go to experience that motivational sense of progress. 

2.  Turn your phone into a notepad

Your phone makes an ideal digital notepad for jotting quick thoughts or comprehensive lists.

I regularly use the notes on my device to:

  • Make a list. Virtually any list you can think of, from daily tasks and grocery lists to event guests. 
  • Track habits by logging my daily mood, recording exercise routines, and monitoring productivity patterns along with my most productive times and tasks performed efficiently.
  • Brainstorm ideas for everything from next Christmas’s shopping list to innovative solutions for project challenges and new business ventures as they randomly pop into my mind.
  • Journal and record daily gratitudes, process challenging experiences, and reflect on goals and progress over time in order to manage my well-being and development.

Unlike physical notes, everything remains easily available, shareable, searchable, and updateable. Today’s note-taking options are incredibly diverse, from apps like Evernote, which melds note-taking with task management, to advanced AI note-taking services like Otter, offering AI-driven transcription and note-taking.

3. Declutter your phone

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: Declutter your phone

Just like physical spaces, your digital realm benefits from regular decluttering. Take inventory of your device—you might uncover apps not launched in ages, wasting valuable storage.

Deleting these creates friction that deters mindless access to distracting sites. I removed enticing shopping and social media apps on my phone. Instead, I access them solely through the browser or have to reinstall them when needed. This extra step makes me pause and evaluate if I genuinely should spend time scrolling or shopping – *spoiler alert* – often, the answer is no.

So, speaking from personal experience, taking the time to eliminate these digital distractions not only frees up space but also sharpens your focus. You might notice a significant difference in how you use your time wisely, especially when you reduce wasting time on social media and shopping apps.

Embrace regular digital cleanup as a strategy to reclaim control over your space and time and focus on what truly matters.

Ditch the unused apps and files—your goals and future self will thank you!

4. Listen to podcasts

Listening to podcasts is also an excellent way to engage with content, learn something new, or be entertained without being glued to your phone screen.

Benefits of this screen-free activity include:

  • Educational – Choose from lectures on diverse topics like history, science, and pop culture delivered by the world’s top academics.
  • Engaging – Storytelling genres from true crime to news keep you riveted during mindless tasks.
  • Screen-free – Unlike social media or other phone activities, you can listen without staring at your phone
  • Accessible – Stream from anywhere while commuting, exercising, or doing chores to pass the time productively.
  • Motivational – Listening to something inspirational or insightful helps you stay energized for the workday instead of aimlessly checking notifications.

While I usually advise against multitasking, podcast listening is an exception – it enhances productivity when paired with menial tasks. From personal experience, integrating podcasts into my routine has transformed mundane tasks into engaging learning sessions that indeed turned my phone into a productivity tool. 

Platforms like Spotify offer a massive podcast library, so you don’t have to switch between apps. With so much to discover, tap into this content goldmine on your next commute or while folding laundry!

5. Learn new languages

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: Learn new languages

As Luis von Ahn shared in his TED talk, learning a new language can uplift lives by enhancing career prospects and cultural connections. Now more than ever, building bilingual skills is accessible through convenient language learning apps like Duolingo and Babbel right on your phone.

Next time, instead of scrolling, download one of these educational apps tailored to your goals – whether Spanish for upcoming travels or Korean just for fun. Their engaging games and quizzes make the once-intimidating process of language learning approachable and enjoyable no matter your skill level.

I’m currently using my phone to pick up Italian. The convenience lets me practise vocabulary on the go, from subway commutes to waiting in line. 

Just take care not to overdo screen time, even with educational pursuits. Aim for intentional learning by planning ahead your targeted study sessions rather than relying on free time. This ensures you maintain your priorities while still making consistent progress and productive use of spare moments. 

6. Read books

As Charlie Munger once declared, “As long as I have a book in my hand, I don’t feel like I’m wasting time.” I suggest reinforcing that wisdom by downloading the e-reader app on your phone and transforming idle phone sessions that you end up wasting into enrichment.

What if you don’t like reading yet? Naval Ravikant advises to “Read What You Love Until You Love To Read.” Keep exploring until you discover genres that resonate – the Amazon Kindle app offers millions of eBooks for Kindle Unlimited subscription. Let the content captivate you first, then reading becomes its own reward.

Short on time? I use Blinkist to sample over 6,500 book summaries in just 15 minutes. This fantastic service condenses titles into key insights for curating your reading list. It lets you “taste” books before committing to entire tomes. 

Beyond benefiting concentration and knowledge, a portable library provides instant escape without draining battery like games or videos. Reading books on your phone offers great, instantly accessible, and effective use of the computer already in your pocket.

7. Listen to audiobooks

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: Listen to audiobooks

Unlike traditional reading, audiobooks can turn every moment into an opportunity for productive work without screen time. It’s also a great way to embrace personal growth and accelerate efficiency while keeping your phone away! 

  • Eyes Free: Give your eyes a break from screens while still stimulating thought and letting you multi-task
  • Portable Learning: A powerful tool to absorb books during tasks when reading isn’t feasible (driving, chores, etc.) 
  • Always Available: Frequent learning gains by fitting into spare moments 
  • Unplugged Entertainment: Don’t need internet or screens for enjoyment 
  • Improved Health: Audiobooks let you learn screen-free, preventing back and neck pain caused by poor posture and sidestepping sleep-disrupting blue light

I’m not an affiliate, but have you tried Audible? Honestly, it’s my go-to for turning downtime into ‘me’ time – absolutely a top pick in my productivity toolkit! 😍

8. Unsubscribe from emails

Beware – emails are sneaky! Beneath a veil of great productivity, they tempt you to drain hours through overchecking and cluttered inboxes. 

Yet statistics reveal the truth – we lose a lot of time to overflowing inboxes. For impact, skim the pivotal HBR discoveries:

  • Over-checking email wastes 21 minutes per day. 
  • Full inboxes waste 27 minutes per day.
  • Using organizing folders still wastes 14 minutes daily.

Save yourself the hassle of deleting 10-15 pitches or updates daily. Unsubscribe from all irrelevant marketing flooding your mailbox to reclaim agency over your time. This ensures productive use of your spare moments, while you maintain focus on your priorities and still making consistent learning progress.

With less noise, transform your email into a communication asset instead of an attention liability.

9. Set up different focus modes

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: Set up different focus modes

Leverage your phone’s customizable focus modes to protect priorities throughout the day. Rather than silencing every notification from every app, tailor modes to limit chosen distractions during set blocks of time.

For example, I have a “Work” mode enabled on weekdays during my work hours. This blocks distractions like random WhatsApp messages or the urge to read the news, preventing productivity lapses. When it disengages at day’s end, that notification signals closing time – a friendly reminder to unwind. 

My “Personal” mode similarly safeguards weekend deep work sessions from Pinterest or online shopping pings tempting me down trivial trails. And finally, “Sleep” mode quiets all digital noise, promoting restful sleep.

The flexibility allows you to permit certain apps or contacts based on mode intent. Use focus modes to divert digital temptations into organized containment, helping you to reclaim agency over attention and time.

10. Get active

Health and fitness are the bedrock for peak performance, making physical activity non-negotiable. Luckily, your phone offers tools to conveniently track workouts and progress no matter your budget.

I frequently use FitOn and LesMills. FitOn delivers a huge exercise variety from HIIT to yoga for free or a paid annual subscription with extra perks. It’s a brilliant, budget-friendly app. Meanwhile, LesMills provides polished video production and programs, albeit at a steeper monthly price of $10-$20. Their engaging BodyPump series helps me torch calories while building strength.

Both apps fueled my fitness journey, proving phones can be an effective tool for reaching health objectives and fostering sustained productivity

11. Meditate

Productive things to do on your phone instead of scrolling: Meditate

Various studies have linked meditation and mindfulness practices with improved health and well-being. These practices help deal with: 

  • Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: As effective as traditional therapies for relief.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Offer significant relief for PTSD symptoms.
  • Insomnia and Sleep Quality: Boosts sleep quality, matching or outdoing other treatments.
  • Substance Use Disorder: Help reduce cravings and support recovery.
  • Cancer: Eases the mental health burden for cancer patients.
  • Weight Control and Eating Behavior: Aid in improving eating habits and losing weight, especially when combined with exercise.

Luckily, apps can guide these practices, so your phone becomes an unlikely ally for well-being.

I use and recommend trying both Headspace and Waking Up. Headspace shines for situation-specific meditations, from grief to relationships, plus excellent nature sounds and playlists for mindfulness. Waking Up provides a more philosophical approach, diving deeper into the nature of consciousness and the conceptual theory of meditation. 

I’ve found these to be tools for stress reduction, sleep improvement, and also in navigating life’s challenges with greater calm and focus, demonstrating the profound impact of integrating mindfulness into daily life. So choose the resonating mentor and use your phone time to foster your health and well-being.

Path forward

In our hyperconnected age, intentional technology use can be incredibly liberating. Harness your device to lift rather than limit. Phase out hollow habits for enriching exploration. Each small shift compounds, building momentum that carries you somewhere new, somewhere exciting.

Clarity emerges when purpose supersedes programming. You define technology’s influence through conscious choices, not unconscious submission. Reclaim agency lost in the din. Where will that liberation lead? Only you decide.

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