Smartphones are perfect distraction machines. They bombard us with messages and news updates whether we’re interested or not, and constant connectivity can feel like a double-edged sword. But you don’t need to chuck your phone in a river to get a little peace of mind. Here’s how to simplify your iPhone and rein in unwanted notifications.
Only get the notifications you care about
There are a few ways you can pinpoint exactly which notifications you want to receive. Navigate to Settings > Notifications to see a list of every app on your phone that can send you an alert. Assuming you’re running a fairly up-to-date version of iOS, you can control every aspect of every notification right here.
You don’t necessarily need to go through the whole list disabling everything—just turn off the worst offenders. For example, I like to stay informed about the news, but I got tired of receiving three or four alerts about the same story, so I disabled all but one of my news apps.
Of course, the primary over-notifying offenders are probably the social media apps on your phone. If you don’t want to block them completely, most have more nuanced settings within their respective apps. Facebook literally has over a dozen things that might notify you, from birthdays to comments to friend requests. I don’t mind being notified if someone is trying to send me a message, but I really don’t need a red alert when it’s my cousin’s friend’s birthday.
Likewise, I’m a big Twitter user but that site is notoriously chaotic. So I have it set only to notify me when the person tweeting at me is someone I actually know. Almost every social app will have additional controls like this within its settings so that you don’t have to block it completely.
And if you’re inundated with robocalls, iOS 13 has a feature called “Silence Unknown Callers” under Settings > Phone that silences any call if it doesn’t recognize the number. It’s incredibly useful, but you do have to remember to disable it when you are expecting a call from someone not in your contacts.
Make your home screen a minimalist refuge
Like a lot of tech nerds, I download new apps all the time and then forget about them after poking around for ten minutes. But all those face filter apps and Flappy Bird knockoffs pile up until your phone is a digital hoarder’s mess. All the same, I don’t necessarily want to delete all of my silly junk apps.
What I do is move all that stuff off the home screen. The home screen—or the first screen you see when you unlock your phone—is for the apps that I actually use every day. There’s room for about two dozen apps, but that doesn’t mean you have to use all that space.
Just press and hold any app icon until it starts to jiggle and then you can rearrange them. Drag everything you don’t regularly use off to the side to create another “screen,” if you don’t have one already.
To me, all the screens besides the primary home screen are like a junk drawer. Everyone has a drawer somewhere in their house that is full of odds and ends like errant rubber bands and paper clips and scissors—but I try to go through and organize pretty regularly since holding onto apps you don’t actually use can be a security risk.
The goal isn’t to make your phone into an old-fashioned brick by turning off everything that makes it useful; the goal is to focus on the things you actually care about. It just takes a few minutes of tweaking the settings and prioritizing your apps to make your phone feel a little more sensible.