We’re all inundated with technology these days. It’s everywhere, and it’s impossible for most of us to get away from it. Because of that, the smartphone often gets a bad rap because it’s always in our face. But it’s not the smartphone itself that’s a problem. It’s how you use it.
We’ve talked about this before, last week we had a guest post about moving back to a dumbphone, we’ve tackled smartphone addiction, and dealt with the stupidest things we all do with smartphones. But let’s be honest: most of us aren’t going to give up our iPhone, Androids, or Windows Phones. We just need to use them better.
Make Better Notifications and Alerts
A few different schools of thought exist in the notification debate. On one end, notifications are evil and should be turned off completely whenever possible, and on the other, asmarter notification system makes them a lot more worthwhile. Where you land really depends on what you need from your phone (or how your work needs you).
Personally, I fall under the “no notifications” school of thought. I don’t have notifications on my phone for anything but phone calls and text messages. If you can’t get a hold of me in the long hours I spend in front of the computer, you’re not going to get a hold of me (unless you call or send a text message). This works great for me because, like I said, I’m in front of a computer for a bulk of the day, and the weekends are my time to do the exact opposite of that. That said, not everyone has that luxury and still needs to be available to at least some extent all the time.
For people who can’t get away from notifications, a smarter notification system is necessary. One way to do that is to use Pushover and IFTTT to regulate when and how you get messages. Another is the iPhone’s built-in Do Not Disturb feature. If email’s your problem, correctly utilizing the Priority Inbox in Gmail ensures you’re only getting email that really matters.
The point is that most of us use too many notifications for too much stuff. If you’re checking Facebook every 30 minutes, do you need notifications on too? Probably not. Turn off the non-essentials and use your smartphone in peace.
Delete the Junk Apps You Waste Time On
Every one of us at Lifehacker has at least a small degree of app addiction. We download and try new stuff constantly, and because of that, our phones get filled with all types of useless junk. We’ve talked about beating your app addiction before by starting from scratch and building up with just what you need. Delete everything, and add what you actually use as you need it. You might be surprised by how little you really need the bulk of your apps.
Instead of checking Facebook, Twitter, or playing a game of Temple Run when you’re bored, delete those apps and do something else. The out of sight out of mind philosophy works great on your smartphone. As someone who plays a ton of iOS games, I had to delete all of them from my iPhone and relegate them to an iPad because I found myself obsessively thinking about high scores every time I had a little down time. Once I deleted them, I never really thought about it again. I also employed the verb system for app organization so when I clicked on Twitter I had to go into the “Distract” folder and get a small pang of guilt.
Even without all the time-wasting apps, your smartphone is still a device that’s connected to the internet, takes pictures, has GPS, and is still incredibly useful. Getting rid of the apps that waste your time or make you anxious helps break the reliance you have on it.
Quit Relying On Your Smartphone When You Don’t Have To
We rely on our smartphones for a lot of things, and if you feel like you’re growing uncomfortably attached to it, then it might be time to start weaning yourself away. I did, which is exactly why I decided to rely on my own memory instead of technology for a month. Sure, I’ve gone back to certain things (like notes), but I’ve stopped reaching for my phone every time I need to remember something.
The same goes for GPS. While it’s obviously an incredibly useful service, it also makes it so you don’t really learn your surroundings. We’ve walked you through weaning yourself off GPS before and it’s a wortwhile experiment, even if you only try it for a couple days. The point is that you’re likely better at getting around than you think, and the less you look at a GPS app, the better you’ll learn your city in the long run (obviously GPS is still incredibly helpful when you’re out of town).
As we’ve pointed out before, smartphones can be a serious bane to our existence—but so can anything else when it’s used in excess. Thankfully, part of what makes smartphones “smart” is that we can tailor them to fit our needs. If you can’t ditch a smartphone and resort to older tech to break away from it, then you can at least make it a better experience overall.