Do you feel like you're always staring at your smartphone screen? Is your "notifications" list a mile long? Does your phone never stop buzzing? Phones are supposed to improve our lives, but if you're not mindful about your usage, they can start feeling like an unhealthy addiction. If you feel stressed out by your phone, here are five settings you should change to reach a technological zen:
1. Make your distractions harder to find
Put all of your apps into as few folders as possible. Because the folders can only fit six apps per screen, you’re burying apps that would otherwise be just one thumb-tap away. That forces you to be more deliberate when opening an app. So if you’re an Instagram-addict, you have to open up your phone’s search function and type in “Instagram” rather than just subconsciously dragging your finger over to the Instagram icon whenever you’ve got a spare minute. (Thanks to Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher Mims for this life-altering tip.)
2. Airplane mode is not only for airplanes
Sure, listening Spotify is great when you're working out, but do you really need to read every text you get while you're on the treadmill? Put your phone in airplane mode during times when you don't want to be distracted by it, whether that's at night in bed, out to dinner with friends or at the gym.
3. Delete apps when you have an IRL equivalent
Do you really need a to-do list app? Or to use your phone for an alarm clock? Karla Klein Murdock, a psychologist who runs the Technology and Health Lab at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, recommends "decoupling" activities from your phone if it turns out the phone doesn't actually add anything extra to it. Create a paper to-do list and give yourself one less opportunity to get sucked into your screen.
4. Turn off notifications (or hide them behind your lockscreen)
Not all notifications are created equally and they shouldn’t all display on your phone the same way. The iPhone gives you many options for how notifications appear: on your lockscreen, in the phone’s notification center (accessible by pulling down at the top of the lockscreen) or on the homescreen.
To change your notifications, go to Settings, then scroll down to Notifications. From there, you can customize which types of notifications you receive for each app, as well as the order those notifications appear in (do you want to just see whatever notification is most recent first, or perhaps prioritize text messages to appear at the top?).
To change the notifications for texts, for example, click on Messages, then simply switch off whatever notifications seem unnecessary.
I found that notifications for unanswered text messages on my lockscreen frequently sucked me into Phoneworld, so I changed my settings so that texts now only appear on my phone’s homescreen and in the notification center. This means I have to intentionally check to see whether I have a text rather than accidentally encountering them when looking at my phone to check the time.
5. Have a designated ‘check my messages’ time
Instead of jumping to answer every text in real time, start checking emails, texts and other messages all at once every few hours. Few of the communications we receive are actually urgent, but we often treat them as such, constantly interrupting the flow of our day. If you give yourself designated time to check messages, you'll feel less scattered. And don't worry, very few people will notice that it took you an hour to respond to their text instead of 10 minutes.