Have you ever caught yourself checking your phone for the umpteenth time while thinking “this ain’t right”? I know I have! The damn thing kept beeping, vibrating and flashing its screen at me, and like some pavlovian response I kept picking it up and interacting with it even though there was nothing there that I needed to deal with. Because let’s be honest: there’s rarely anything important going on on our phones. There’s never a life-and-death situation. There’s a message or a like or a tweet, or you might need to check in on your “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game, but nothing will perish if you leave the thing alone for an hour or two. We turn our phones off on planes, don’t we? We sleep through the night without interacting with it, and the earth still stands when we wake up! So how can we make our damn iPhones a little less… intrusive?
Turn off your notifications
God yes. Do this right now. You know all those things that will never ever notify you of a life and death emergency, but still light up your screen whenever there is a new like or follower or comment? Tumblr and Pinterest and Snapchat and Instagram and god knows what? Make them shut up and leave you alone. How, you ask? This is how:
First you find your “Settings” menu and navigate to “Notifications”.
Find the apps that you want to shut up
I’m guessing you’ll have a lot of those, and you will have to go through these steps for each one. It only takes a few seconds though, and it is completely worth the effort. The image to the right shows the settings for an app that I have allowed to pester me: my public transport app. You could just turn off notifications altogether, but you can also choose to just turn off sounds or lock screen notifications or remove the badge app icon. You also get to choose the visual style of your unlocked on-screen notifications, or deactivate them completely.
And here’s what my Snapchat settings look like. Snapchat is one of those apps that I don’t really use very often, but I like to keep it around so I have left the badge app icon on just to remind me whenever I have received a picture. All the other notifications are off.
It really is that simple
But stay vigilant: whenever you install a new app you will be asked if you want to allow the app to send you notifications. Just say no, people. Just say no.
The result of doing all this is that you will have to consciously remember to pick up your phone and unlock it to see if there is something going on. I still had to spend some time breaking the habit of automatically picking up my phone and checking it every 10 minutes, but it was a much easier habit to break once my phone stopped trying to grab my attention with its enticing beeping and flashing. Having to remember to check it yourself means that you get the mental space to think “do I really need to check my phone right now?”. And of course, more often than not the answer will be “no”.
Other things I have done
- I turned off the e-mail notification sound. Yes, I know this is essentially covered by the screenshots above, but I feel like it needs a mention on its own because it is so easy to think that e-mail is one of those mega-important things that you just can’t tune out. Pfft. If I’m not sitting by my computer at work then there is no reason for me to read e-mail. I can if I want to, but there’s nothing going on in my inbox that needs to be dealt with right away. Nothing. Ever. The only sounds I have activated on my phone are calls, texts and reminders.
- I only keep the sound on my phone activated when I’m at home, because when I’m at home I want the phone to be sitting on a table far away from me and tell me when there’s something important happening. When I’m at work I send and receive texts through iMessage on my MacBook, and I can see calls when my phone lights up on my desk. There’s no reason to keep the sound activated when I’m out of the house. I don’t keep it on vibrate either.
- I no longer bring my phone into meetings. I’m 100% less distracted, and checking your phone during a meeting just looks disrespectful unless you’re a main honcho and actually need to deal with important things on your phone. Say it with me guys: We’re just not that important.
- I uninstalled my top time wasters. Bye bye Tumblr, bye bye Pinterest.
- I no longer charge my phone on my bedside table. I charge it in the living room. No phones in bed, darling. It’s really unsexy.
- When you’re with friends and family, put the phone away. Ever been out with a friend only to have them stare at their phone half the time? I have, and I’m sure I’ve been that person as well. Don’t be that person. That person is a butthead.
Do you have and phone-related tips to share? And are you trying to spend less time on your phone?