How to stay productive on your phone while staying at home

Your phone, tablet and other devices are great for keeping you productive during the pandemic. They give you so many ways to connect with friends, family and co-workers and provide a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.

But your devices are a double-edged sword at times, serving as an unnecessary (or much-needed) distraction, especially if you’re using them to procrastinate when you’re otherwise looking to stay productive.

Whether you’re someone fortunate enough to work from home, or you’re out of work, retired or simply social distancing, here are some tips to stay productive on your phone and devices while you’re at home.


Switch to Wi-Fi

This is a top suggestion when our members call our support lines. If you have a broadband connection at home, we suggest you turn on Wi-Fi in your device settings. You’ll not only save on your data usage, but you also may have a faster internet connection while using your phone.

To turn on Wi-Fi on your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Wi-Fi > toggle the Wi-Fi button. Choose and enter the password for your home Wi-Fi network.

On an Android device, go to Settings > Network & internet > Wi-Fi. Turn on Wi-Fi, then choose and enter the password for your home Wi-Fi network.


Online classes

Have some spare time on your hands? This might be a great time to learn a new skill or take a course online, right from your device. 

If you’re looking to take an educational class or even obtain an online certificate or degree, a number of websites, some free of charge, have you covered. edX, started by MIT and Harvard, gives you access to 2000 free online courses from 140 institutions with topics ranging from humanities, computer science, business and more, and offer certificates and degrees for a fee. The completely free Khan Academy offers K-12 classes, coursework and test prep for all ages.


More self-enrichment

Your phone or tablet aren’t just gateways to standard coursework, either.

Masterclass offers dozens of classes ranging from cooking, photography, musical instruments, science, politics, writing and more — all taught by experts and celebrity instructors in their fields.

Babbel, Duolingo, Pimsleur and many other apps offer you the chance to learn a new language, free or for a monthly fee. Here’s a list of 11 apps to check out.

Looking to cook better meals while at home? Apps like Tasty (iOS and Android), How to Cook Everything (by Mark Bittman), America’s Test Kitchen, and the New York Times Cooking App will give you new recipes and skills in the kitchen.


Remove immediate triggers from your home screen

Do you unlock your phone and immediately open Facebook or Instagram, then wonder what happened to the last 15 minutes? It’s a common behavior, and it can be counter-productive.

If you tend to get easily distracted by apps on your phone when you have other tasks (work, for instance), try removing the apps from your home screen that you always launch by default when you unlock your device. This way, you will prevent yourself from accidentally falling down a rabbit hole of social media scrolling.


Write letters to voters

As a CREDO member, you might be more politically active than most. But with the pandemic preventing protests, canvassing, marches and other in-person forms of civic engagement and activism, we’re left with few outlets to express our progressive values.

Here’s one way to remain active: Writing letters to other voters. The non-profit project Vote Forward enables regular people to send actual letters to help register voters from under-represented demographics and encourage them to vote — right from their home. According to the organization, letter writing is “one of the easiest things you can do to increase turnout” and “meaningfully increases the odds that the recipient will vote.” Check out and sign up for Vote Forward here.


Take a break

Sometimes the best way to stay productive on your phone is to take a break from it. One study found that “the mere presence of a cell phone, even when ignored, reduces people’s intellectual acuity, possibly because it takes a distracting level of mental effort to resist the pull of a nearby phone.” 

So if you can, take a socially-distanced walk outside, do some stretching, anything as a break from your devices. Here are some additional reasons to consider taking a break from your screens from the Greater Good Magazine at UC Berkeley.