How To Reclaim Control of Your Phone and Reduce Distractions

Sometimes, it feels like our smartphones have completely outsmarted us. You agree to a new update or try a new app, and suddenly you start getting notifications for things you don’t even care to see. It becomes overwhelming, but before you know it, you’re spending even more time staring at the same screen you’re trying to avoid. Social media and streaming apps are the most common culprits here, but even fitness apps can drive you nuts over time. Luckily, there are ways to resolve the issue.

NOTE: I have a Google Pixel powered by Android, but I’m sure Apple has alternatives to the features I recommend using.

1. Turn On Do Not Disturb

When I go to bed or need peace and quiet, I put my phone on DO NOT DISTURB. I also have a “Flip to Shhhh” feature on my Google Pixel. So, if I put it face down, it automatically switches to DO NOT DISTURB. This is extremely handy, so I don’t have to mess with features on the same phone I’m trying to use less.

You might wonder, what happens to all the people who need to reach me? What if there’s an emergency and you miss the call while sleeping? If the alarm company calls, will you hear them? Android allows you to set exceptions by apps, specific notifications, and persons.

For example, I allow notifications from my alarm systems and phone calls from my parents. Repeat callers can also get through if they are persistent, which is likely the case in an emergency.

2. Try Focus Mode

Most devices now come with some version of Focus Mode. I first noticed it on my Android devices, but I also had it on my Microsoft Surface. It works differently across various devices and operating systems based on how different developers think focusing works. The specific purpose of the device can also make a difference.

On Android phones, it lets you select the apps that tend to steal your attention and time. It then makes these apps unavailable and silences their notifications until you turn Focus Mode off or indicate that you need a break.

Some other devices go black and white to discourage you from using them for anything fun. After all, how appealing are Instagram Reels or Pinterest photos if you’re viewing them in black and white? You might also find this as an Extreme Battery Saver option.

3. Adjust Your Notifications

I get my most annoying notifications from YouTube and Pinterest. They always want to suggest some new video or photo that I genuinely do not care to see. I can get as many as half a dozen recommendations from each in a day.

You can “long press” the notification when you get intrusive recommendations like these. When you do this, Google asks you if you want to Turn Off Notifications. You can then modify what types of notifications you get from that app.

For example, the only notifications I care to receive from YouTube are comments on my videos or replies to comments I left on other people’s videos. The same is true on Instagram. For Pinterest, where communication is almost non-existent, I don’t want any notifications at all.

4. Use a Wireless Charger

How often do you pick up your phone? Use a wireless device to charge it, and you’ll find out. Not all smartphones can charge wirelessly, but most new ones do. You can continue using your device when you use a regular charger. With a wireless charger, you disrupt the process whenever you pick up the phone to get on social media or respond to a message.

Some wireless chargers make it easy to see your messages and respond without removing the phone. However, if you’re trying to use your phone less, I recommend staying away from these. Get into the habit of using the wireless charger when working or before you go to bed. These are the times when you shouldn’t be on your phone anyway.

Here are some of the top-rated wireless chargers on Amazon for under $20 (affiliate links!):

5. Delete the Apps You Don’t Use

If you’re like me, then you have several apps on your phone that you rarely open. They are taking up space and resources and not doing much else. Deleting the apps is one of the most effective ways to reclaim control over your phone. That’s one less source of notifications and requests for updates.

Android’s File function also has cleanup capabilities. If you open the app, it suggests how to create more space on your phone. A common suggestion is deleting apps you haven’t used within a specified time. It automates the process for you. All you have to do is confirm the ones you want to remove.

For example, mine recently recommended I delete Duolingo off one of my devices because I never use it. Instead, I practice my Spanish lessons on my main phone. That was an easy choice. Now, I only get Duolingo’s passive-aggressive reminders on one device!

6. Set App Timers

Did you know you can set screen time limitations for yourself? There was a point when Twitter was insanely addictive for me. I practically lived there and would get behind on work because of it. So, how did I resolve this? Android allows you to set timers for the apps you use. When you run out of time for the day, it greys the app and it becomes available again when the time resets the next day.

This is a great way to curb your behavior if you spend too much time on specific apps. Start by viewing how much time you spend each week and then determine how little time you would like to spend. Then, set the timer and try to keep it going without turning the timer off or trying to lengthen the limitations.

For example, I set my Twitter timer to 2 hours per day. Then, I reduced it to one hour and then 30 minutes. Now, I don’t need a timer anymore. Elon ruining Twitter has also been a great help to keep me off there.

Breaking the smartphone addiction takes dedication and discipline. If you struggle to keep up with the timers you set or can’t make it through Focus Mode for as long as you would like, just keep trying. The more you work at it, the easier it becomes. Think of the benefits that await you, such as learning to be more PRESENT with the people around you.

Are you also planning on reducing your screen time for 2023? What strategies will you be using? I’d love to hear your tips!

7 thoughts on “How To Reclaim Control of Your Phone and Reduce Distractions

  1. Well since my comment, I had to buy a new phone since the replacement phone crapped out the same way the first phone did. Now I have a pixel 7 Pro and wow! The difference is like night and day. The 7 Pro is awesome!

    1. Why do you always have the odd numbers and I always have the even numbers? 😂 I have the Pixel 6 pro!

      1. Well I started out with a 3XL. And it was still doing well when the fours came out and it wasn’t much of an upgrade for me to do that. Then the fives came out and I was still doing okay with mine. Then I heard that the threes were having issues and they weren’t going to upgrade them any longer. The sixes had come out but I was kind of reluctant because of the new chip that was in it. So I bought a 5A because it was inexpensive and quite an upgrade from my three. I probably would still the 5A if it hadn’t crept out on me because I was planning to upgrade when the eight came out. But now since the 5A crapped out on me twice, I had to have a phone in the seven pro. Just seemed to fit the bill and I got a pretty good deal on it too.

  2. Google has made it really easy to personalize your phone especially on Android 13. I usually have my phone on vibrate when I don’t want to be disturbed and at night when I go to sleep. I’m quite happy with my pixel 5A, I don’t run many apps and Google updates my phone regularly. Of course I use it mostly for the camera and to stay in touch with friends on WhatsApp. Though I would like to update I still have time on this phone before Google will stop updating and then I will look for a new pixel phone, maybe the 8? You brought up some good points and I think people forget just how much Google has made Android to be more personalized especially in the last couple updates.

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