Here’s the app Rory McIlroy uses to stay focused during big tournaments

February 15, 2020
Rory McIlroy says he's determined to stay off his phone whenever possible.

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Rory McIlroy wishes we could all stay off our phones a little more. Since he first mentioned reading Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism last year, McIlroy has zeroed in on the deleterious effects too much screen time can have on people of all ages.

I’ll keep this article short — so you can put your phone away! — but here are McIlroy’s thoughts on the subject.

“Staring at screens and just information overload basically, how that can be detrimental to your cognition and your concentration and the ability — I think there’s no doubt that the fact now that so many kids have ADD or all of these different attention disorders is because of the screens that they’re looking at from such a young age,” McIlroy said in his pre-tournament press conference.

“I would love to see people get away from it somewhat. I try my best. But we live in a world where we can’t get away from it, we do need our phones, we do need to stay connected.”

One notable difference between McIlroy and the rest of the working world is that his day-to-day job requires very little screen time. During big tournaments, he said he locks his phone away altogether to get focused in.

“100 percent. I try to lock my phone in the bedside drawer in the weeks of majors and just try and get away from it all. We do jigsaw puzzles, I read books, I do anything I can to just get away from that,” he said.

McIlroy added that he recently downloaded an app to help protect against the temptations of his phone.

“It’s called Freedom, which is actually a really good word for what it does. It frees you of — it’s like a URL content blocker, basically, so if you just want to have a week or a month where you see no news, no social media, whatever, you can block all that content on your phone. It’s just basically like an extra layer of a VPN so that you only see what you need to on your phone whether it’s a text message, a call or email.”

Freedom’s stated mission is to help people “reclaim focus and produc­tivity” and help people improve their relationships with technology. For McIlroy, that means limiting his access and limiting his screentime. He added that he only reads one news outlet (though he didn’t mention which one) to further simplify his information intake.

The formula seems to be working. McIlroy has ascended to world No. 1 and entered Saturday at the Genesis Invitational in a share of second place, just two shots off Matt Kuchar’s lead. The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is seeking his fifth top-5 in his last five starts. He says the key to accomplishing those big goals is to continue to chase the little ones.

“If you get the little things right, day after day after day, and you practice good habits and those habits become completely ingrained in what you do, the rest will follow.”

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