The Tiny Tech Trick I’ve Used for Years That Saves Me Stress Every Day

published Apr 9, 2024
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It all began after a breakup. I was still in touch with my ex, and his daily texts and calls had the power to turn my day on its head. Just silencing my phone wasn’t enough — so I hit the moon icon on my iPhone, setting my phone on “Do Not Disturb,” and rediscovered peace in my life

I’ve stuck to the feature over the past couple of years, and it’s forever changed how I interact with my phone. It opened me up to a world without the constant influx of notifications — one where I don’t have to grant others perpetual access to my time and energy. I realized that before using DND, screen time had been replacing my downtime. 

Now, I have it set to automatically turn on during work hours, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and I manually enable it during other moments I want to be particularly present. Considering that the average American checks their phone 144 times daily — that’s 4 hours and 25 minutes of screen time — it’s a practice that could help others feel less stressed out by their phone, too.

Here are five major ways turning off notifications has benefited my life, as well as some tips on how to make DND work for your own lifestyle. 

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Benefits of the Do Not Disturb Method

It boosts my productivity and helps me do better work.

Even when I didn’t interact with them, notifications used to distract me constantly, interrupting my workflow. And I’m not alone: A study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, found that it takes a person 23 minutes on average to recover the same level of focus after an interruption. Now that I use DND, projects that used to take me several hours to complete take me half the time. Plus, I’ve noticed I do better work overall; my ability to hold my attention on a single task helps me achieve a state of flow that makes me more creative and a better problem-solver.

I’m more mindful now.

I turn on Do Not Disturb when I’m practicing self-care, journaling, spending quality time with loved ones, or just partaking in what brings me joy. Meditation used to be nearly impossible, but now I’m truly able to quiet my mind. I’m more in tune with myself and more connected to my writing. Even watching movies has become a more immersive experience. 

Dr. Lindsay Haston, a psychologist based in Pennsylvania, says she often recommends Do Not Disturb to her clients. “Mindfulness is key for living in the present. Eliminating your phone as a distraction makes you more engaged with your feelings and surroundings, providing you with more control of your experiences,” she explains. “You gain a higher state of self-awareness because you’re giving your thoughts the attention they deserve.”

I feel less stressed all the time.

According to a 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association, checking your smartphone is associated with significant stress, with “constant checkers” experiencing higher levels. Turning off my notifications has helped me feel less on edge and given me a sense of clarity and calm by ridding my day of external noise and anxiety triggers. Now that checking my phone is an intentional choice, I feel less overwhelmed by outside pressures and influences.

I have better boundaries.

One of the best parts of turning on DND is that others can see when you have notifications silenced. It’s a great way to let people know that I don’t have the capacity to answer at the moment, without having to actually explain myself. “Smartphones make us feel like we owe people constant access to our attention, time, and energy,” says Haston. “Putting our phone on DND eliminates that sense of obligation and urgency, helping us set healthy boundaries with ourselves and others.” 

I’m sleeping so much more soundly.

Since using this setting nightly, I’ve noticed that I fall asleep faster, rarely wake up throughout the night, and have so much more energy during the day. Back when all I did was put my phone on silent, I still felt compelled to check it — especially if I saw it light up or if I woke up in the middle of the night. Haston says she highlights these benefits to clients who suffer from poor sleep hygiene, and for the best results Sleep Foundation suggests getting off your phone (and turning on DND) at least 30 minutes before bedtime. 

Tips for Effective Use of Do Not Disturb

Use the “Emergency Bypass” feature.

For people who have kids or feel anxious about being completely disconnected, there’s a way to make sure you don’t miss out on important calls. You can enable exceptions to make sure you’ll still get calls from your favorite contacts, or if someone calls more than once you can enable permission for those to come through in case there’s an emergency. And if someone’s texting you, they’ll have the option to click “Notify Anyway,” if they need you.

Turn it on across all devices.

If you receive texts on your computer, you can get the most out of DND by turning it on across all devices. I use the setting to completely eliminate distractions and anxiety triggers, but do what’s best for you.

Communicate your DND boundaries with others.

Let your friends or family know they shouldn’t try to reach you unless it’s important when your notifications are off. Tell your boss and colleagues that it’ll be easier to reach you on Slack (or whatever medium) if you’re scheduling DND during work hours. Your team will understand you’re striving for better work.

Put your phone in a different room.

Sometimes it’s hard to fully ignore a smartphone, even with DND. Some days, I’ve been tempted to grab it for a little scrolling. During those times, I put my phone away in a drawer. 

Customize your DND with focus features.

There are endless ways to customize DND to tailor to your needs. The Focus Filters on Apple allow you to do things like get specific notifications from certain apps. For example, setting a Work Focus will only allow notifications from your boss, coworkers, and the apps you use for work. It’s an excellent tool for those with busy work schedules who can’t completely unplug. 

Set designated times to check your notifications.

What has worked best for me is to designate certain times to check my phone, like during my lunch break or after a meeting before getting back in the groove. You may find it easier to check your phone at certain times during the day — especially if being away from it makes you prone to worry or FOMO. Do whatever works best for you.