There are many benefits to smartphones, not the least of which is that they help you communicate with other people. These devices also let you access information from anywhere in the world, but phones tend to consume entirely too much of your valuable time.

There's no doubt that mobile applications are fantastic and we love them. However, their primary purpose is to keep you occupied for their own benefit -- not yours. Instead of getting sucked into your screen each day, use that time to be more productive.

Here are five changes to make to your iPhone settings and usage habits -- that'll carry over to non-iPhones as well -- to help you waste less time and boost productivity:

1. Remove the home screen notification icons.

Right now you probably have notifications in your various apps -- like iMessage, Instagram or Gmail. The world moves quickly, and being reactive to the constant bombardment of messages that come in can suck up a significant amount of time.

Instead -- turn off the "Badge App Icon" under notifications. This will eliminate the red bubble sticking out from your iPhone apps when you're on your home screen.

Instead of opening your phone and seeing an enticing "5" hovering above your messages -- there will be nothing there. Don't be alarmed if you are momentarily caught off guard -- you may not even realize how you have been perceiving this number. You may even have been using this number as a gage of your worth or popularity. This simple notification change will help eliminate the urge to deal with those notifications immediately, and you can respond to people in due time.

2. Turn off email and buzz notifications for frequent-use apps.

In tandem with the app icons, the constant bombardment of notifications and buzzes kills productivity.

Each time you switch your attention from work to a message or notification, it takes time away from the task at hand. This wasted time comes at a price. Not only are you handling the notification -- but it's sometimes difficult to get your brain back in tune to the work you were concentrating on before.

If you have not done so already -- turn off your mobile email notifications. Yes, this means the sound notifications you have been expecting from most of your apps and/or contacts.

I don't blame you for wanting to know what the email says or who texted you -- I'm the same way. If you have grave concerns about a few people to whom you are their lifeline -- let them know about your habit change. Tell them you will respond -- and give them a timeframe.

Not seeing these messages coming in initially frees up an immense amount of thought power. You can immediately employ this concentrated time to deal with your work -- and the inefficiencies you have been experiencing will occur less.

3. Batch your responses.

A productive alternative to responding to messages when they come in is to batch your responses. Take a 10-minute break from what you are doing, and focus purely on responding to messages and notifications. You will see these immediately upon opening any app.

This will allow 100 percent of your mind and attention to be focused on responding. Your brain will be in response mode, potentially boosting your efficiency and the quality of your messages.

4. Use the new App Limits feature.

Apple recently launched an App Limits feature on IOS 12 that can support you in lowering phone usage.

This app tells you where and with which apps you have been spending the most time. In a 2017 report, Comscore stated that the average American adult (18+) spent 2 hours, 51 minutes on their smartphone every day. You'll likely be surprised how high the numbers are for you-- and this awareness is a helpful step.

You can use the feature to set limits on your daily usage of various apps -- a meaningful opportunity if handled correctly.

If you currently spend two hours on Instagram each day and you want it to be 20 minutes -- setting a 20-minute limit tomorrow tends not to work. Making such a large jump overnight is unsustainable. Instead, you can gradually decrease your usage.

Going from 120 minutes to 115 isn't too tough. You can go down gradually (minute-wise), preparing yourself for change. Forming new habits is tough -- but this new feature gives you the tools to do so over time.

5. Turn on grayscale.

Using this feature, which turns the color on your screen to various shades of gray, may feel less than exciting. But that's the point. Instead of your phone becoming a place to play around -- it becomes more of a tool to combat phone addiction. It's easier to get bored with a less stimulating device. I often switch to grayscale at around 9 p.m., so that I have an hour to wind down before I go to bed or read a book. You can find this feature in your settings under "General," and then under "Display Accommodations."

Published on: Oct 24, 2018