Smart Phone Distractions (and 9 Ways to Beat Them)

May 22nd, 2017

The life of someone with ADHD is a constant minefield of distractions we have a considerably lessened ability to ignore. Too many of these are outside of our control and all the more frustrating for that. Our phones, on the other hand, are technology designed to be more and more customizable to our wishes.

Also, they can often hinder us as much or more than they help. Here are my nine top suggestions for cutting down on the amount of time we spend distracted by them.

NOTE: I’ve only ever owned an iPhone smartphone so these strategies are related to that experience. However, I’m confident most if not all of these have comparable functions in Android and BlackBerry. For directions on how to turn these things on or off, Google “how to ___ [turn off badge app icons] ___ [Android Galaxy 7]”.

1. Do Not Disturb

My absolute favorite function for keeping my phone useful and not interfering. It automatically silences and turns off vibrations of notifications for a specific interval of time (in my case 7PM-8:30AM). You can also adjust this so “Favourites” ring through no matter what, or if the same number calls three times in a row.

2. Turn off “badge app icons”

If you’re like me, you need to get every app 100% read so there are no little red bubbles of numbers on the home-screen of the phone. This would draw my attention every time I opened my phone. I’ve turned them off and my phone feels so much more peaceful, not like a room full of voices calling for my attention.

3. Lockscreen notifications off

One of the top ways my phone sidetracks me is the technological equivalent of walking into a room and forgetting what you went in there for. I’ll go into my phone meaning to email someone or record a note, see a text on my lockscreen, and reply to that, then close the phone, without accomplishing the really important thing I had meant to do. Turning off notifications to the lockscreen removes this hazard.

4. Smartwatch

My Pebble does a ton of things that have decreased distractions.

5. Designate time

If you still find yourself checking email, Facebook, twitter, texts, IMs, etc. every time you open your phone, it can be helpful to designate a specific time during your work day to address things like this. Moving back and forth between work and communications decreases productivity enormously.

6. Dopamine red flag

On the other hand, if you are actively seeking out social media or communication while you’re supposed to be doing something tedious, this can be a clue your brain is low on dopamine. This happens to me all the time. It’s become a signal to me. If I’m checking email and I have no specific reason to be (push notifications come to my watch for my business email account), this means I’m seeking out a source of dopamine because my brain is too low on the focus neurotransmitter to do the boring work I’m supposed to be engaged in.

7. Turn off notifications altogether

Any app you don’t absolutely need to get notifications from, such as Netflix for example, just turn off notifications from that app altogether. As much as I love the show, I do not need to know Sherlock season 4 was added, in the middle of writing a blog. If it’s an app you don’t even use, delete it! Free up space and distraction-free time.

8. Transfer files

And speaking of space, make transferring things, such as photos and videos you want to keep, onto your computer, a regular event. Being able to delete these memories from your device will prevent the notification that you are running out of space.

I can’t recommend updating your device to the most recent software version because this is not always useful. However, if you are confident in your device’s ability to handle it, this will also eliminate a system notification. Always research this in advance.

9. Take a tech holiday

Of course all of the above are my ways of decreasing distractions, but at the end of the day, everybody must discover what works for them. My suggestion on how to discover what specifically trips you up when it comes to technology is to take a tech holiday, and watch what happens. What is more difficult? What is better? What takes a weight off your shoulders? Assess your tech use with this information and a mind to improving it in the future.

What are some other ways you manage your phone so it isn’t a distraction?