Cell Phones & Sanity:  How to Keep Both!

When you read the title of this post, I’ll bet you either nodded yes vigorously or scratched your head in confusion. For some people, cell phones are the greatest thing ever and they can’t live a single second without them, while others refuse to even own or touch a cell phone. But I think there are also many of us who fall somewhere in the middle as we try to navigate the constantly-changing world. I love the technology of my smartphone, there is no question of that! But it’s the implementation that I don’t always love. Culture seems to be in a place now where everyone expects 24/7 access to everything and instant answers, which sometimes makes me long for the days when I could leave the house and no one could find me. You know, when you had to track down a payphone if you wanted to call someone? But in an interesting twist, my curmudgeonly nature is exacerbated by the fact that my job is in social media and depends so crucially on my phone. When you’re hooked into the Matrix all day long, the constant dings, calls, and urgent emails do wear on you.

But fear not! You can take control of your phone and keep your sanity without having to go off the grid. Here are some simple strategies I’ve implemented to cut down on smartphone stress:

Push Those Push Notifications Out of The Way.

Very few things are allowed to have push notifications on my phone. The only things that are allowed to ding, buzz, or notify me are as follows: Phone calls, text messages, and emails. That’s it. Oh! And the Maroon 5 app, because I’m a superfan, but it has yet to notify me of anything even though it’s allowed. πŸ˜‰

Listen, if you enjoy getting 5,000 Facebook notifications each day, that’s awesome! But there is absolutely no way I can keep up with a flood of dings from every social network I’m on, or beeps from Candy Crush, or chirps from anything else. Anything I need to know can be seen by either opening the app, or looking at notifications for certain important activity that is emailed to me. By keeping my notifications at a minimum, I know that when my phone dings, it’s actually important. And at that, I only have one of my email accounts set to ding me: Email account #1 is still checked all through the day, but since it gets a lot of (necessary) newsletters, it’s much better to just have notifications for email account #2, which is 99% relevant/important messages rather than less-urgent mailing list notifications or shoe coupons – not that I don’t love coupons!

Use Do Not Disturb Mode!

I am surprised at how few of my fellow iPhone users take advantage of this feature. (If you don’t have an iPhone, hopefully your device has something similar.) “Do Not Disturb” is a fabulous option under “Settings” that stops your phone from making any noise or vibrations. I turn this mode on every single night before I go to bed, which is convenient because I also use my phone as my alarm. This ensures that no calls or emails are going to wake me up in the middle of the night – and all of the notifications continue to appear in the lock screen, so you can see anything that came through as soon as you get up without it bothering you while you’re sleeping. If you’re worried that you might miss a call from someone who has an important issue, you can tweak the settings so that it allows calls from certain groups in your contacts. This way, your elderly neighbor can call you if she gets a flat tire early in the morning, but cousin Jimbo can’t prank call you at midnight. And remember, if it is a genuine emergency, they should be calling 9-1-1 and not you, anyway.

Leave The Phone at Home.

Remember what I said in the first paragraph about those days when you could leave the house without answering calls and emails? Well, we can easily go back in time for a few hours. It’s simple: Leave your phone at home and go for a walk. It’s OK! The world will keep turning without you, I promise. Go to the park with your kids, or have a nice dinner somewhere with your spouse, sans phone….

…unless you think you might walk by something cool, then you better bring your phone so you can Instagram it. πŸ˜‰