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The Weekly-ish Seven, Episode 6
Turn Your iPhone (or any smartphone) into an Angel
You’ve seen the pictures where there’s a little angel and demon floating over someone shoulder trying to influence their decisions?
Well, you have one of these little demons tempting you and it’s not some invisible spiritual being on your shoulder. It’s a cold piece of technology in your pocket — Your smartphone.
We have more information and connections at our fingertips than ever before. But unless we get intentional our phones can undermine our focus, our presence, our ability to be still and reflect.
This is where your phone becomes a spiritual issue. If it’s keeping you from being present, then it’s keeping you from growing. Maybe even from hearing God.
5 Steps to make your phone behave
Today I’m going to tell you how you can turn your phone from a nagging little demon into an angel in 5 easy steps.
All the small steps I’m going to give you are based on one big principle: Your phone is a tool for your life.
It’s meant to serve you, not the agenda of Facebook, or Google, or everyone with your phone number. That means you have to cut down on the number of distractions that your phone provides.
(Note: I’m an iPhone user, so my examples will all be iPhone examples, But the principles and steps apply to any smartphone. You’re smart. Make the adjustments you need to make it work with your system. OK?)
Intentional Tip: Limit distractions by managing what’s on your phone and the noise it can make.
1. Clear the Home Screen.
Your home screen is the first thing you see when you open up your phone. This screen can either be the starting point for productivity or the cliff into distraction.
So, decide whether each app deserves to be on your home screen.
The qualification: That it is an app you use daily and repetitively.
Everything else can be on another page.
When you open your phone and see a neat organized home screen with just the vital apps present, you will get less distracted by other things. So clear it off!
Need help? How to move apps on your iPhone.
2. Delete the Apps you Don’t Need.
Every app on your phone is a possible point of distraction. Why? Every app can notify you. Every app can have a red badge telling you to do something. Every app is a potential time sink when you could be creating or relating or reflecting. So, go through and delete every single one you don’t need.
If you haven’t used an app in 6 months, delete it. If it’s a game you haven’t played for weeks, delete it. If it’s an “emergency app” that you think you might use in that one special situation, delete it. You can always download it again later.
If you’re afraid, remember this: You can re-download any app again when you need it.
Need help? How to delete apps on your iphone.
3. Turn Off Every Notification You Can get away with.
Every app on your phone has the potential ability to nag you. With the right permissions an app can throw up banners and dialogues. It can send you beeping notifications. It can wear a red badge telling you how many things you need to pay attention to. If you’ve got 20 apps that can notify you, your phone can become quite the hassle in no time.
Only allow apps to notify you if those notifications are essential to your daily life. If there’s an app you check regularly as a matter of course, you don’t need the notifications on for that app.
Why? Because you’ll see all the notifications once you open the app. Instead of being sucked in by the red badge, use the app intentionally, on your own terms.
When I did this something unexpected happened: I stated feeling more peace. Presently the only apps that have permission to notify me are the phone app, the messages app, my calendar, and my to-do list. Everything else is off – because I can check those things on my terms, rather than being nagged to check them.
4. Use the DO NOT DISTURB feature.
The Do Not Disturb feature is one of my favorite things about my iPhone right now. When I turn this on, it won’t allow my phone to ring or buzz in any way. No phone calls, no messages, no notifications. The only sound it will make is the sound of an alarm I set. This switch is perfect for meetings, or dinner, or church.
When you turn Do Not Disturb off, all the messages that have accumulated will pop right through and you can catch up.
You can also easily set a schedule so that it comes on automatically! My phone goes into Do Not Disturb mode every day from 9PM until 7AM. .
If you feel guilty setting this, or worry that you’re going to miss something really important, remember: Your phone exists to serve your agenda, not to make you immediately available to all the world.
5. Decide your Answer Policy
There’s one last step, and this one is about your behavior, not your phone. You need to decide your Answer Policy. You’re not Pavlov’s dog. You’re not supposed to answer the phone the second it rings. Doing this fragments your day and takes out out of the relationships and conversations you are in.
Decide what your answer policy is going to be. What will you do when the phone rings or a text comes in? Come up with a policy that works for your life. Here’s the one I’m trying to live by:
- If I’m talking to another human being in front of me in a short conversation, I don’t answer my phone. I don’t even look at it.
- If I’m talking to another human being in front of me in a long conversation, I *may* check the screen to see if it’s my wife calling me, and if it is I’ll ask if I can interrupt our conversation and take the call. If it’s not her, I send it to voicemail.
- If I’m at the table at a meal with friends or family and we’re in active conversation, I don’t answer my phone or look at it.
- If I’m at the table in a lull where I’m not involved, I may check the lock screen when a call. But I want to be careful that I’m not using my phone to check out of what’s going on.
- If I’m in the middle of flow — I’m writing, or studying, or in the middle of a project — I don’t answer my phone. I call back when I’m at the end of my next segment of work. Why? Because getting back into the flow is harder and less effective.
I will call or message back when I get to my next transition. Since starting this I am more focused and more effective in my work. I’m more present in my relationship. And no one has shared with me that they felt neglected by not being able to get ahold of me immediately.
Your smart phone is an incredible tool that allows you to do amazing things. Don’t let it become a distraction that saps your creativity, damages your relationships, or dulls you to God’s quiet voice.
Today I’m giving away 3 copies of the iOS app called Triage. The motto of this company is “Email First Aid,” and it is definitely that.
This app has completely replaced my stock email app on my iPhone. Unlike most apps that try to do more, this one does less. Way, way less.
Once you hook up your email accounts, it presents your email one message at a time. There are only 3 things you can do.
- You can flip the message up to throw it away or archive it.
- You can flip the message down to keep it in your inbox so you can deal with it when you get back to your computer.
- Or you can give it a short reply.
That’s it. No folders. No attachments. No sorting. No flags.
I flip through my email in Triage a couple times a day. I dump anything that I don’t need to act on. Anything that can take a 1 sentence response, I reply to. The rest, go back to my inbox, and I deal with them when I sit down at my computer next. Done. I have never been so on top of my email, and I’m far less distracted by it.
To Win: Post a comment here. Answer the question there to enter the drawing. Everyone who comments will go in the drawing, and the winners will be announced in the next episode. Make sure to leave your email address or a way for me to contact you if you want to win.
What about your smart phone is the most distracting to you? How might that be impacting your spiritual life?