The Phone notification that cried wolf!

Are you always looking at your phone when maybe you should not be? Do you feel like you are addicted to your phone? Or maybe you are missing important messages because there is a flood of notifications continuously bothering you. Just like the boy, you cried wolf…… I’m here to tell you it is not your fault and there are ways around this.

I’m going to show you how I control my notifications so they are helpful not a hindrance.

I have ADHD and notifcations are my enemey

OK ok maybe they are not my enemy but with a single beep, buzz or boop they can destroy hours of productivity. As someone with ADHD, it is not that I can not focus it is that I can not choose what I focus on. For some people just looking at their phone would be a simple glance then back to work. For me looking at my phone or computer at the wrong time can result in hours of research into a topic that maybe should have waited. (Do you I really need to research Japanese catapults used in the Onin War 1467 -1477 … when should be writing invoices? …. no)

At the same time if I turn off all notifications I will forget freaking everything. Meetings, to-do items, important messages and the occasional message from a client that comes through Facebook messenger instead of calling.. (I am not a fan of that by the way)… So how do I make sense of all of this?

Information superhighway has a trafic problem

Just like the freeway, the streets can get kind of crowded. There is more information than we can process. So just like the onramp during rush hour that limits how many cars can enter the freeway at a time we need to do the same thing with our phones. We need to do the same. We need to control who, when and why we allow notifications.

Disable notifications for apps you are not using

Apps love to send you notifications. While the obvious ones try to sell you something others are more sneaky. Facebook used to send me notifications every time a friend I have not talked to in a very long time would “post for the first time in a while” or would mention EVERY SINGLE COMMENT on a post I made about one of my hobbies. The idea is to get you to open the app and see their ads.

Turning off notifications is not a waste of time. Go through all of your phone notifications and remove the ones you do not want. Make it so that only important notifications are still on.

Use Focus on IOS

Focus is a feature that came with iOS 15. It has to be a major improvement in my productivity. What Focus does is that it allows you to set conditions to what notifications can reach you and when.

You can set Focus is like “do not disturb” on steroids. It acts as a filter to make sure that you have control of your notifications. It even removed that red number over the apps so you are not tempted to see why you have 200 emails when you should be paying attention to that lecture. At the same time, you can get those same notifications when it matters.

Android phones do have a similar feature but I have had little success with it.

Here is what my Focus page looks like

Focus allows you to set categories. As you can see I have a few different kinds of notifications having to do with my schedule and my activities.

  • Do not disturb (only phone calls from my wife and daugher comes through)
  • Driving (Turns off all social media but allows podcasts, maps and phone calls)
  • Parkranger (This is the codename for a programming project)
  • Personal (This means that only social media and game apps can reach me… all work related notifications are turned off)
  • Reading (I will explain below)
  • Sleep (simular to do not disturb but is scheudled)
  • Teaching Class (This is like Do not distrub but my family and calandar notifications can come through otherwise I my classes will run too long)

Because this is my work phone it allows all notifications, phone calls and texts during work hours (It is the default) but if you call me after 5 PM I will not get the message until 9 AM tomorrow.

Focus does not totally remove or delete the notification but will hide it until it is appropriate.

I have a client who tends to panic and bombards my phone with all kinds of texts and phone calls at odd hours. While I am sympathetic to their concern they have never been anything that rebooting their computer could not fix. And it has never actually been an emergency in fact most of the time when I call them back during business hours they have forgotten why they called. This feature has saved me from having the “You need to not call me after hours” conversation that I know they will take the wrong way.

When I am reading I am reading

Because ADHD and dyslexia cause problems with my reading I have set the application to ignore all notifications from all apps when I open the “Books App”.

However, I have made it so that if my wife was to call me for some reason I will still get the call. The same thing goes for my scheduling app.

You can make it so only the apps you need can send you notifications

There are apps that can send me notifications outside of business hours. Now, this also works the other way around. Let’s say you are using a personal phone for work. You can make it so you no longer get Facebook notifications while working but come five o’clock ..

It does take some time to get the settings just right. So expect that there may be a time when you miss a notification that maybe should have been allowed to come through. but do not give up. Play with the settings and check it the next day. it is worth it in the long run.

Smart watch

As much as I am not a fan of consumerism a smartwatch is not a bad idea to have if you are one of those people who are addicted to your phone. I have set up my smartwatch to my personal phone (Android). While the phone will get all kinds of notifications (but it is set on silent and will not even buzz) it only sends the important ones to my watch. This allows me to quickly take a look without opening the phone.

For me, only text messages, Phone calls and very select chatting apps get sent to my watch. This way I am not tempted to check my phone.

Smartwatch also has the advantage that notifications are less annoying to my wife who is autistic. A notification going off at the wrong time is more than disruptive.

Second phone

Like above I do not think that everyone should have two phones but I have found it handy to make sure that my work and personal life stay in their nice little boxes. By having a personal phone and a work phone you are able to make sure that each one does not send notifications when it would cause problems.

That and it is very easy to leave the work phone on your desk at work and ignore everyone.

Set summery notifications

This is a neat feature that delays key notifications until selected times. This makes it so you do not miss those important notifications but they arrive all at once. (don’t worry it is not like a teenager turning their phone off for a weekend and then being bombarded by 1000 texts in 5 minutes. It’s one notification as a list.

Delete Apps that bother you

I have a rule that if an app sends me too many notifications I delete it. While this seems simple it is a lesson that many people need to learn. Just the other day I had a senior bring me a phone that had received so many notifications from the “Cleaning apps” that the phone had become unusable.

In situations like this just turning off the notifications is not enough. Delete them.

Unsubscribe to your newsletters

I spend a lot of time writing emails. The problem is that I used to be subscribed to a lot of newsletters. Former hobbies, businesses that somehow have me on their list and a ton of spam. While we can only do so much about the spam the others it is worth the time to unsubscribe.

The goal is that if there is a notification about an email it should be important. So unsubscribing to all those newsletters is a very good idea.


Cleanfox is a great little app that helps you unsubscribe to unwanted newsletters. while it is not perfect it does help remove some of the labour of unsubscribing. the best part it is free and while I do think it does send me notifications I do not remember ever getting one.

If you are in Lithgow and need help with your phone?

Folks who are in the Lithgow, Katoomba and Bathurst area and you need help getting your phone or computer notifications under control I can help. I offer personal training on how to use your phone.

Specialise in seniors and adult computer training.

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