Ding ding! 5 ways to take control of your phone (before it controls you)

Alex Maroya — Your Tech Coach
4 min readNov 28, 2019

Back when texting became a craze we first met the character called Crazy Frog, who went around going “ding ding” in the most annoying way possible. The guy now has his own YouTube channel and has made creator Erik Wernquist quite rich.

Ding Ding
Crazy Frog the most annoying creature of all time

Those were happy days when text messages were the only notiifications you had to worry about. People now often have 100+apps on their phone and most of those are pumping out daily notifications seeking your attention. Needless to say most of these are NOT things you actually need to know.

  1. The basics

iPhones have a great little button that turns the phone onto silent with one click. I’ve often wished Androids had this feature, but it’s still not too hard to take a quick break: swipe down from the top of the home screen and press the button with the bell to toggle between silent, vibrate and tone alerts. Press and hold this button and you will go to the sound settings page where you can refine things further if desired (e.g. you can have sound for phone calls and just vibrate for other messages). You can customise your ringtone and alert soundshere as well: I recommend something soothing and ambient so you and people around you aren’t startled when your phone goes off (especially if you accidentally leave it on in the cinema!).

2. Disabling app notifications

I love having lots of apps but how many do you need notifications from? Four or five would be my guess: primary email and messaging apps, favorite news and/or weather app and a couple of social media accounts if you must. All the other “story of the day”, “deal of the week” type messages are wasting your precious time. In your phone, select Settings (the “gear” shaped icon) then the Notifications submenu. For iPhone, you then have to go into each app individually to disable notifications. For Android, you just select Batch Management and for each app that sends you dumb marketing notifications uncheck the notifications permission. How’s the serenity?

3. Limiting notifications within apps

So you’ve chosen the handful of apps you want to receive notifications from: time to go a bit deeper. Most apps in their own settings menu (usually accessible via the three parallel lines image at the top left of the app) will allow you to go further and specify what events you want to be told about. This is particularly important for social media apps. For example, Facebook by default will tell you almost everything: likes, comments, bithdays, group posts, etc, etc. You don’t need all (or arguably any) of this stuff so uncheck those boxes and then uncheck some more.

4. Quiet time

Assuming you’re not an on-call neurosurgeon, do you really need to have your smartphone on 24/7/365? Try leaving it in another room, leaving it behind while you go out, or just turning it off for a while. Love the feeling when you get on a plane and switch on “aircraft mode” for some compulsory online downtime? Plan your own bit of aircraft time everyday: in the Settings menu you can set up an automatic “do not disturb” profile on your phone to give you scheduled time off (you can also program in exceptions if, for example, you still want to be able to receive calls from close family members).

You can create a “do not disturb” profile in the settings menu

5. Lock yourself out of your phone!

If you don’t want to rely on willpower to separate yourself from your favorite apps, there are several apps for Android and iPhone that let you self nominate restrictions on your phone use. You can either lock out particular apps or any use of you phone at all for certain periods (or if you exceed a specified usage in a day). Some will let you over-ride the restrictions in case of an emergency (or an “emergency”). Popular apps are Flipd (cross-platform), DigitalDetox (Android) and Moment (iOS). These apps will generally also provide a range on analytics on your phone use. More recent Android and iOS releases also have some of these features build into the Settings menu.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s column on taking control of your smartphone. I don’t do sponsored posts, paid Amazon links or the like so your advice is always 100% independent. If you’re interested in individual or corporate coaching on making tech work for you (in person or by video) email alex@yourtechcoach.com.au to enquire.