Even if you love your smartphone, sometimes you want to shut the thing up and get some work done.
Sure, you could just power it off or rip out the battery (if you have one that isn’t soldered in, of course). But then you’re completely cut off, and that’s not good if someone needs to reach you in an emergency.
While much of the discussion about the need to “unplug” is rather alarmist, I found the idea wasn’t completely without merit during a week-long cruise to Alaska. The lack of email pings, Facebook notifications, Twitter alerts, and other ongoing messages were something I not only learned to live without, but came to appreciate.
So I decided that I needed to take more action to not necessarily use my phone less, but more intelligently (notice that self-justification?). Beyond the basic notification controls, Android has a lot of tools for empowering yourself to conquer those pesky notifications. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve come up with.
If you have a favorite method or app you like, be sure to let us know about it in the comments.
Understand how to control Android notifications
Android has some pretty good notification controls, which give you enough control over some of the basics if you just want to dial things back a bit.
The best way to tame an app is to long press the notification itself when you get one. Then touch the i icon to head to that app's notification settings.
Additionally, you can go to Settings > Sound & notification > App notifications. The exact same notification options are there, but you can instead hunt down the specific app you’re after.
It’s extremely useful for those free-to-play games that have no notification settings in the app, and want to pester you every time your armies are replenished or power meter is full.
If you have a Motorola device, check out the options inside Moto Assist. You can set a daily time where your device is in a sleep mode so you won’t get woken up at 3 in the morning by an @ mention on Twitter. Your specific device may have its own such options, so be sure to toy around with Samsung, LG, or another maker’s interface.
Flip your device on airplane mode
Just because it’s called Airplane Mode doesn’t mean you’re restricted to being at 38,000 feet to use it. Airplane mode is a great way to shut off the outside world, with the ability to reconnect quickly by turning this mode back off when you’re ready.
On stock Android devices you get to the Quick Notification panel with a two-finger swipe. Samsung’s TouchWiz lets you customize the options available from this panel, so if you want Airplane Mode can be one swipe away.
Grab an app to silence the others
There are a few apps out there that do some of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to taming some of those pesky notifications. QualityTime is at the top of those that I’ve tried.
The app has a clever nanny mode that actually bans you from using any of the apps on your phone for a predetermined period of time. Perhaps this may help you to break the temptation to check Twitter just one more time when you really should turn your attention to that deadline peeking around the corner.
Speaking of apps, you could employ a more radical solution and uninstall Facebook, Twitter, or other social time sucks altogether. In the past I’ve instead gone to checking Facebook in Chrome. The experience is decent enough, and it frees you from tying your self-worth into how many likes you accumulate.
Lollipop significantly improved how you can silence your device for a long period, like sleeping (well that’s supposed to be a long period, anyway).
With Android 5.1, however, you’re able to set interruptions to “Priority” or “none.” With either of these you can customize at what time the break ends.
That’s a great method for deciding you need to focus on a project for two hours, read a book, or just don’t want another alert when a presidential candidate says something loony.
There’s a reason it’s hard to break away
For all the talk about the impact of being “addicted” to our phones, there’s a reason it’s hard to break away: a smartphone gives unprecedented access to knowledge and the outside world. You know what I used to do when standing in line at the grocery store or during those awkward moments at obligatory family gatherings? Suffer in boredom. I’d rather stimulate my brain by reading news or playing a clever game than staring at the ceiling.
That being said, it’s good to take a break and recharge from all things, including your phone. You may find yourself rediscovering reading, lounging, or another refreshing activity. Maybe you’ll just be bored, but dialing back your phone usage is at least worth a try.