signals vs noises

i started a new practice around this time last year: i wanted to rely less on my phone and i wanted to cut back on distractions during the day. so i turned off almost all notifications on my iPhone (and my computer).

i did this in phases, of course, as one can’t go all-in.

• to start, i turned off notifications on less-frequently (or never) used applications. these were just taking up room in the notifications drawer anyways. i rarely use such apps passively. that is, i launch this kind of app to get information out and never find the need to push me anything valuable.

• i then made sure that all notifications, no matter where they come from, never ‘light’ up the screen – they only appear when i swipe into the notifications drawer. a good side-effect of this is that it no doubt will increase your battery life. the screen doesn’t have to wake up a hundred times a day, as most of these will go unnoticed with the phone in your pocket.

• i also turned off all sounds for alerts: the only thing that rings is a phone call. old-school. a negative of this is that i sometimes miss a text message or two and don’t answer them until some time has passed. (if you really wanted to, you could set up Messages so that it’s silent in ‘silent mode’, but vibrates in ‘normal mode’: this way you at least can keep up with texts when you’re in a mode where you’re expecting someone.)

i recently brought this idea to bed: instead of using an alarm clock, i sometimes wake up with the Jawbone UP’s alarm. it vibrates softly on your wrist and nudges you out of bed; there are no noises. a bonus is that there’s no option to snooze with this method: there’s no chance for me to stagger my wake-up nine minutes at a time. the more i got used to vibrate-as-alarm, the more i fell in love with this type of signal. if it vibrates during the day, it means that i’ve been idle and that i should move more. if it vibrates early in the morning, it’s time to wake up.

i’ve been looking for more signals like it.