The Magic of the Silent Alarm

May 13th, 2019

In my most recent blog post I talked about how overwhelming and unhelpful too many notifications can be. I also talked about ways to mitigate this problem and make reminders our friends where once they were foes. This is another method to do that.

Once upon a time an alarm was mainly for being woken up in the morning and I still consider that an essential cog in my time management machine. Alarms, however, can serve many other functions (see more on that here).

There is a specific feature that I’ve recently been enjoying a great deal. It involves turning off both the sound and vibration of an alarm. What happens then is the alarm (and the corresponding label) fill the entire screen, just waiting for the next time we look at it. It won’t interrupt and cause another thing to distract us, but will patiently wait for a time when we look at our phones. And often for me looking at my phone is a distraction anyway so this brings me back to what I’d wanted to be doing.

You could even set an alarm like this for one minute just to set up a full-screen reminder not to touch the phone.

Because of how this silent alarm functions it is typically only useful for quite specific things. Though I do find that good tools are useful only for specific things. If something has too many features it may be unreliable, overwhelming, or both. Something I use this mechanism for is posting my blogs Monday morning. I don’t need to post it at a certain time, but it does need to go up before 10AM so I can slot it into my social media stream. So I have a weekly silent alarm for Monday at 9AM. The first time I look at my phone after that time on Mondays, I post my blog.

Another use could be to set it for when we are driving to remind us of something to do when we get home. It won’t make noise and distract while driving, but when we get home and look at our phones, we will see the reminder.

One of the best things about this feature, that no other app I’ve found does, is it fills the entire screen. This is a beautiful thing. It eliminates any other distractions from the phone and forces my eye to the label I added. I have also discovered that this mechanism tends to get overwhelming quite quickly. Probably because of the full-screen nature of it, it doesn’t take many silent alarms before I am ignoring them. So for now I only have one.

What other uses could you put this silent tool?