Having a phone that never leaves our side has transformed the way we stay in touch: If our kids are in trouble, or our partner misses us, or our favorite sports team has scored, a notification lets us know instantly. But it means something else, too. We never get a moment’s peace.
Every ping your phone emits is another distraction, one that can take several minutes to recover from. You can, however, keep your phone while reducing how often it interrupts you, by taking control over your notifications.
The good news is that the latest versions of Android and iOS make this easier than ever. Apple and Google know you don’t necessarily want to be interrupted every five minutes. These are the steps you can take.
Your phone gives you more granular control over notifications than you might have realized. (You were probably too busy dealing with notifications to seriously look into it.) You can keep alerts on for texts and turn them off for Amazon deals, for example.
If you’re on Android, head to Settings then open Apps & notifications. Tap See all apps, then choose the app you want to manage notifications for, and tap Notifications. The toggle switch at the top lets you turn notifications on or off for the app.
Many instant messenger apps let you mute certain conversations—very handy when you’re involved in group chats.
Further down you should be able to adjust notification settings for specific app events, depending on the app. For Twitter, for example, you can turn notifications on or off for direct messages, new followers, and interactions with your tweets. For Gmail, you can turn notifications on or off for each account you’ve set up, if you want emails to some accounts to trigger alerts but not others.
The toggle switches let you turn notifications on or off, but if you tap on the notification categories themselves you can enable silent alerts for particular apps or particular events in apps. That means the notification appears at the top of the screen as normal, but it won’t make a sound or vibrate your phone, no matter what the current volume settings.
If you want to dive even deeper into the settings on this screen, you can turn sounds and vibrations on or off for each individual type of notification. It might take you a while to work through all your apps, but your reward will be a notification system that only alerts you when you need it to.
Those of you on iOS should head to Settings, then choose Notifications. All of the installed apps are listed, and you can tap on any one of them to turn notifications for it on or off, or to make more detailed changes.
For every app that has notifications enabled, three different types of alerts can be enabled or disabled: Lock Screen, Notification Center, and Banners, which display over the top of whatever app you’re using. If there’s an app you don’t particularly want to hear from, for example, you can turn off the Banners option. If Banners stays enabled, the setting below lets you pick between Temporary (they appear briefly then disappear) and Persistent (they stay on screen until you dismiss them).
Further down the screen you can turn sounds and vibrations on or off for each app, effectively letting you set up silent alerts for some of your apps. They’ll show up on screen, though you won’t know about them if you’re not looking at your phone.