Image by Marvin Meyer

Simplifying Your Phone & Quieting Distractions

Updated: Mar 18

Quieting all the noise can be challenging. Most of us have multiple social media accounts, multiple email addresses and so many notifications are constantly popping up on our phones. It can be overwhelming just picking up our phones in the morning. I've worked with multiple clients that have 15,000 to over 100,000 emails. And that's just their email. Deep down we all want to feel like we're doing our best to keep up with everything, but when that little red dot appears next to a bunch of apps it can seem overwhelming. (This next part is all about email, so if you've got that figured out scroll down to "What about the rest of my phone?")

Recently, I was with a client that had over 15,000 unopened emails. I assumed all of these hadn't come through this year. Come to find out these emails dated back to 2013. We decided to tackle this head on and ended up sifting through them all in less than an hour. Today I'm going to talk through how we simplified her email and what other steps we can take to simplify the rest of our phones.

First, we had to figure out if the email notifications we're coming through to one email or if there we're multiple accounts we needed to work on. Come to find out there were 6 different accounts signed in, but one in particular had the most, 10,000 unopened. I asked her if she would be okay if I went in and marked every email as "read" except those that came through this month. She said she loved that idea! Thankfully Google has a way to mark batches of 100 at a time so it doesn't take as long as you think!

We signed into on a laptop since it's so much easier to clean email out on the computer instead of a phone. Not only does it let you mark batches of multiple emails it even categorizes what's a "social email" or "promotional email".

Primary shows all your emails in one place, but the Social and Promotions tab allows you to see emails that are from a social media account or a company. Social can be anything from Facebook notifications, to LinkedIn notifications, Instagram... you name it. Promotions could be emails from company's updating you on their most recent sale. There are arrows on the top right just above the Social and Promotions tab that allow you to sift back into older emails. This is where the magic happens.

Click the Social or Promotions tab, then select the arrow to the top right and click it until it takes you to last months emails. (see picture above) Next, click the check box on the top left, that will select all the emails on that page, then you can click the little envelope icon. When you hover over the envelope icon it will say "Mark as Read". When you click this it will mark every email as read on that page. Now you can use the arrows to click back further, use the check box to check them all, and mark as read. Do this for all your emails except for this months emails. That way you can take care of what's current.

As you sift through old emails if you see something that you forgot to take care of you can "star" that email. This will automatically put those emails into a "Starred" folder created by Google. That folder shows up right underneath where it says "Inbox".

No matter how many emails you have in your Inbox this is a great place to start. It can seem counter productive to mark the emails as read since you're not actually reading them, but having a clean slate when you need to check your email again will give you so much more peace next time.

How do we prevent this from happening in the future? Next time you check your email and you see one pop up from someone or a company you don't wish to receive emails from anymore just scroll to the bottom of the email and click "unsubscribe". This will prevent future emails from coming in and will help you keep your email cleaner in the future!

What about the rest of my phone?

Now when it comes to quieting the noise on our phones there are SO MANY ways to go about this. The first thing to do is ask yourself, "Why do I want to simplify my phone? Am I feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by it? What is causing these feelings?" This may seem like a silly question, but for me personally I can't stand being accessible to people 24/7. I want to be able to sit down and write, read a book, work on a design project, and not feeling like I'm ignoring everyone. Here are a few things that have helped me overcome this!

#1 Turn off Notifications that don't come from people

First, I have turned off all notifications unless they are from a person. If you have an iPhone open up Settings, then Notifications... and there will be a list of every app on your phone. Scroll through your list of apps and find one you don't want to get notifications from. Occasionally I will sit down and play pool on my phone, but I don't want to get ANY notifications from the app. So I slide off the "Allow Notifications" completely.

Now, let's say you don't mind notifications for an app, but you hate the little red dot that pops up next to the app on your home screen. I personally cannot stand that. It makes me feel like I need to open the app. That little red dot is called a "Badge" and you can turn just that off if you like! I've turned that off on a lot of apps that I need notifications for like Venmo, PayPal, etc.

#2 Stopping Nighttime Notifications

Another great hack is Do Not Disturb. On an iPhone you can add people to your Favorites in the Phone app and when your phone is on Do Not Disturb anyone that calls you that is in your favorites will come through, but everyone else won't. This feature is MY FAVORITE. I'm very serious about getting a good nights sleep