[HOWTO] Control Annoying Smartphone Notifications

Category: Mobile , Social-Networking

Notifications are handy until they become frequent distractions. Even if you don’t succumb to the temptation to see what that buzz, ding, beep, or flash is about, you will still be wondering about it in the back of your mind while trying to work (or sleep). If you need to stay focused (or get a good night's sleep) you need to rein in those distracting notifications. Here's how...

How to Tame Your Notifications

Your smartphone can sometimes seem like a three-year-old, always demanding your attention. Text messages, notifications from Facebook or Instagram, reminders, and updates from other apps can be very distracting and time consuming. Some of them are designed to increase your level of addiction to the app. When you see "Jane tagged you in a photo" or "Joe commented on your post" it's ever so tempting to drop everything and dive in.

Toddlers don't come with a Mute button, but fortunately, there are some options when it comes to dealing with the incessant demands emanating from your Android mobile phone. If your smartphone is distracting you from work that needs to be done, or keeping you awake at night, there are some ways to minimize those problems. Setting your phone to “airplane mode” will stop ALL notifications, calls, and other communications until it’s turned off. But that may be too draconian. You could miss important phone calls, and you won't be able to use the Internet or check emails.

You may want to block text messages or notifications from Facebook but still receive notifications of calls, emails, or text messages from VIPs such as close family or your boss. You may also want emergency alerts from the National Weather Service and civil defense authorities, as rare as they are.

Control smartphone notifications

Google recently updated the Android operating system to allow finer control in its “Do Not Disturb” mode. Here is how to find and fine-tune Do Not Disturb in Android:

Open Settings and tap Sound, then tap Do Not Disturb. You can activate Do Not Disturb mode immediately by tapping “Turn on now.” You can configure certain hours during which Do Not Disturb mode should be activated automatically, such as your working or sleeping hours. I find it useful to mute most notifications from 10pm to 6am on weekdays. You can also set a separate weekend schedule if you want to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday.

There’s lots of flexibility here. You can allow all calls to ring, or none; or only calls from starred Contacts, or calls from any Contact. You can even whitelist specific contacts who will always be put through. Also, there is a toggle for people who call repeatedly within 15 minutes, possibly indicating an emergency; when it is on, such callers will be put through.

The toggle option, “Alarm can override end time” means that an Alarm set in your phone’s Clock app will end the Do Not Disturb period. This is handy if you have an Alarm set that is supposed to interrupt whatever you are doing, e. g., a meeting time or reminder of an appointment.

Messages will be muted while Do Not Disturb is active unless you configure exceptions. You can configure exceptions to let contacts such as family and/or boss reach you. You can also toggle notifications of events or reminders on or off. There is a “repeat messenger” toggle like the “repeat caller” toggle.

If you get familiar with Android’s Do Not Disturb function you will not be distracted by notifications, calls, or text messages while you are working, sleeping, eating, or attending meetings. Do Not Disturb is a powerful privacy tool.

We've covered using Do Not Disturb to limit your notifications during specific days and times, but it's worthwhile digging into the settings for apps that are particularly noisy, such as Facebook. On Facebook, you can't turn off notifications entirely, but you can choose what you're notified about and how you're notified.

To fine-tune your Facebook notifications with the mobile app, click the icon that looks like three horizontal bars on the right side of the screen. Tap Settings & Privacy, the Settings. Scroll way down the page and tap Notifications Settings. Here you can limit notifications for comments, tags, updates, friend requests, birthdays and many other potential annoyances. To fine-tune your Facebook notifications from the desktop, click the (nearly invisible) black arrow at the top-right corner and select Settings. Click Notifications on the left, and you can choose how you get notifications via email, desktop, and mobile.

Do you find that your productivity or sleep suffers from too many notifications? Let me know if "Do Not Disturb" or some other approach has helped you. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Control Annoying Smartphone Notifications"

Posted by:

Len B
10 Dec 2018

I have the opposite issue. My latest tablet often fails to notify me of important emails/appointments because the Android's doze feature effectively cripples alerts. Perhaps you would cover how this can be resolved in a future article as nothing I've tried seems to provide totally reliable alerts.


Posted by:

Don Brohm
10 Dec 2018

Interesting this arrived while I am battling many unwanted notifications on my Galaxy S5 android 6.0.1 Marshmallow phone. I was able to find customizations to notifications under: settings; Sounds and Notifications; Do Not disturb; Allow exceptions; Custom; Priority app notifications. I hope this stops the annoyances.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2018

The first thing I do whenever I download a new app is go into the settings/applications and find the app I just installed, then turn off notifications for that particular app (unless it serves a useful purpose to keep it turned on). I only use Do Not Disturb when I, um.....don't want to be disturbed.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2018

I have a sure fire way to avoid annoying notifications on cell phones: I don't have a smart phone. My dumb as rocks flip phone (which I love since it never butt dials) is for talk only--I have text and voice mail disabled--and I keep it turned off except when I'm going to use it.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2018

And what about those of us stuck with iPhone??
Most Hearing Aids ONLY connect directly to iPhone, so we are a captive audience!!!

Posted by:

10 Dec 2018

I've got most notiications shut off that I can. Those I can't, the audio is muted or shut off too. I don't generally have my phone on the nightstand either and also don't keep apps open that use this disturbing annoyance if I'm not using them. I'm not some little kid or adult who lives through his phone. I don't need to know that a friend just burped the Star Spangled Banner.

At night I just lower to volume to vibrate only, believe me, it's loud enough on the surface my phone is on, and if I'm using my alarm clock, the alarm overrides the vibrate only feature as do other emergency alarms from my municipality, NWS or NOAA.

I do like some of the DND features though, will have to explore further, some seem useful especially letting calls ring in from family.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2018

My pet hate on my recently acquired smartphone is the infuriating adverts which pop up randomly - frequently when I'm halfway through typing a text message grrrr. I refuse to even read the adverts and as to buying anything they're pushing, I never ever would - on principle.

Posted by:

Brian B
11 Dec 2018

Look here.


Posted by:

11 Dec 2018

I've noticed some websites have become quite aggressive pushing notifications, with the decline option being absent or greyed out. Or the ability to back out of the website blocked. (This renders some site blocking apps useless.)

I've usually been able to get around these tactics by expanding my tabs and closing the offending tab. Still, it's really annoying.

Posted by:

James F
12 Dec 2018

I can't believe any intelligent human over voting age is still on Zuckerbook. It was nice during the very first days but went to the toilet soon after.

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