I decided to turn off phone notifications. There, I said it. After my post last week about creating a tech detox rhythm of renewal I knew that this was the next step. To be honest with you, I didn’t think that I had many notifications on my phone at all. But, they were there, perhaps not as many as most people, but still, they were there.
I had a couple of caveats on my notifications. First, I decided to keep the notifications for both apps my membership community uses turned on. I will revisit that at some point in the future, but for now I felt better about keeping those notifications on. And my fitness notifications. But, every other notification that you can turn off on your phone? I did that.
It was a little strange to first, see how many apps I actually have. It reminded me I probably ought to go in and start deleting some. And second, that so many random apps had notifications. Why exactly do we have all of these notifications?
What are phone notifications used for?
You have to figure out what phone notifications are used for. And more importantly, if you personally need to use them. Is it possible some notifications need to stay on? Perhaps you need to stay in contact with your family and the only way they communicate is through facebook messenger. You may get notified when specific files are shared with you for work, and that is helpful. Maybe you just like to see when people email you in real-time.
But, how much time do you take in a day to just check your phone notifications, and not go beyond that? A survey from reviews.org shows that Americans, on average, check their phones 144 times per day. That statistic seemed crazy to me. And it is actually down from 344 times per day when they did their last survey in January 2022. Think about that. If you give yourself 1 minute of time for thinking about wanting to check your phone. In 2022 that meant that you thought about checking your phone for 5 hours and 44 minutes out of your day. That is down to 2 hours and 24 minutes this year. Does that give you pause about how often you check your phone?
Can you pinpoint exactly which notifications are important, and which are not?
Last week I shared about how I am part of that very narrow two-generation time period. Where we have a lot of similarities with both Generation X and Millennials. I grew up in a land of zero notifications. And they really haven’t been part of my life until the past 10 years or so.
Instead, we were blissfully unaware of all the things happening around us unless we could physically see them OR we were chatting on the phone. Is there a need for the instant notification?
There is a case for yes. I realized that last week when I shut off notifications but was also trying to plan dinner with friends. Facebook messenger was the mode of communication I chose, but then I realized without notifications on, I would not know when my friend had responded. So, I had to keep checking my phone – perhaps more than I needed to.
In years before notifications, I would have waited for a phone call, but I wouldn’t have sat next to the phone waiting. I would have continued about my day, and if I missed the call, it would go to the answering machine (an archaic device with a physical tape people would leave a message on). I find it fascinating to see how these devices have trained us.
Why you NEED to turn off Phone Notifications
Here is the real answer – it is to get back your time. Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough time during the day to do the things that you love? Are you constantly feeling anxious because there are so many things to do, and not enough time? I believe that one of the reasons for that feeling of “not enough time” is because we give a good portion of it away to technology.
If we go with the average of 144 times you check your phone each day, that is 2 hours and 24 minutes of time. Yes, it may not take a full minute to check your phone, but I am counting it as a minute because every time you check your phone, you are distracting yourself from whatever you are currently doing. If you are in the middle of a project, and check your phone, that one small act could make you take and additional 20 minutes to get back into that project.
If you are checking specifically to take a break, perhaps we can have some leeway with the numbers. But, is there a better use of your time than checking your phone constantly? I would say yes.
We all feel that constant need to speed through life. There is no downtime. You choose to have your kids in multiple activities and go from place to place. It is overwhelming, and parents feel that every single day. So, instead of adjusting their overall schedule, it is easy to take that quick dopamine hit from checking your phone, checking social media. What happens is you start to waste time because you are overwhelmed and exhausted. That quick check of the phone bleeds into 30-minutes of scrolling through instagram reels.
The real reason you need to turn off phone notifications is to take back your time.
What happened when I turned notifications off?
It has only been a week for me to fully have my notifications off. The first couple of days I was checking my phone constantly, perhaps more than normal, because I didn’t have a ding to let me know I had a notification. Instead, I needed to go into each individual app to see if something was going on that I should know about. The short answer is there was nothing of importance that I was missing by not checking my phone.
I would constantly look at my apple watch to see if something came through, nothing did.
Finally, after two days, I realized that I didn’t need to pick up my phone all the time, there was no reason to. Instead, I started utilizing my time for other things. I worked hard not to think about what messages or emails I was missing in the exact moment and thought about dealing with them at a set time of my choosing.
That’s how it used to be, right? If you weren’t home for a phone call, or you were busy when someone called, you would have to return the call at a later time. Often, that meant playing phone tag with your friends until you were both home and available to answer the phone. People did not expect an immediate answer from a phone call. There was some understanding that you may not even connect with the person until you saw them in person again at school or church.
At what point did we start to allow others to dictate our time?
What is the next step?
Once you turn off phone notifications, what is the next step? Where do you want to go from here? This was a little more challenging for me to figure out. I have some responsibilities that need to be taken care of in a timely manner, but are there any that require instant response? If you have kids out in activities, yes, that would be something instant. But, an instagram notification about someone sharing a reel is not something that needs an instant response.
It takes a little while to feel OK with that. I used to be one who would respond immediately. If a text came in, I immediately responded. A new email comes in, immediate response. Facebook posts need to be approved, go in as soon as someone tries to post something and approve it.
But, giving someone else that amount of control over your time, over your day, is not healthy. That is where tech routines come in and we are going to explore those together.
My challenge for you
Today I want you to consider how often you touch your phone. If you have an iphone, you can go into screen time settings and see how often you pick up your phone each day. There is a lot of data in that section of your settings. You can see what app you go to first when you pick up your phone. How long you are spending on particular apps. Whether they are social media or something more productive like kindle or audible.
Look at your own data as a starting point. Figure out how often you are checking your phone, the times of day that you are checking your phone, and how you feel during those times. Are you picking up your phone because you are overwhelmed and need a break, so mindless scrolling is what gives you that brain break? Is it because you are waiting on an important email? Are you hoping to see certain reactions around a photo or video you posted? Having an understanding of why you are checking your phone at specific times during the day will be helpful for you as we continue to explore the use of tech in our lives.
Yesterday, our screen free day, I picked up my phone 54 times. Yes, on our screen free day. 19 of those times was to change the song that was playing on Pandora. But 5 were to check instagram. Even though it is something I have been working on, even though I have parameters in place during a “screen free” day, I am still struggling. It is a learning process and we won’t be perfect, but recognizing when and what we are doing is the first step.