One Simple Trick to Take Charge of Your Phone for Peace and Presence

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I love my phone. I think it’s half my brain. No, I take that back. It’s closer to three quarters. I do everything with my phone. The modern personal computers that fit in your pocket and connect you to the world are the most important devices in our modern lives and the time we spend on them proves it.

I’m on my phone A LOT. A dangerous amount. An obscene amount. My relationship with my phone was once so overwhelming you might have called it abusive – on my phone’s part. That is, until I took charge of it. I used to be so addicted to the stimulation – the dopamine hit – of a text message alert that I would get phantom vibrations. I would think my phone was going off in my pocket even when it wasn’t. That actually started for me about eight years ago. But it doesn’t happen any more.

My phone used to distract me constantly. I couldn’t hold a normal conversation without being … a dick. A very distracted dick. A dick who didn’t really want to focus on you when we’re talking. I’m glad those days are over. And it all comes down to one simple trick.

I turned my ringer off. Not to vibrate, no. That doesn’t cut it. I connect through my phone when I want to use it, not when it wants to use me. But that’s not really enough. I had to set it to do not disturb. But even that didn’t really work. If I turn to my phone to read something, or write something, or check my email, or complete a task, I would still get an alert that would distract me when someone called. So I had to resort to drastic measures. Airplane mode. But that didn’t work either! I can’t read the news without my data connection! So here’s one more little trick to complete the policy: call forwarding. For an Android at least, when you have it on “do not disturb,” it still disturbs you with notifications. However, if you have it set up for call forwarding, the call never even reaches your device! Interrupting calls (while set to “do not disturb”) were still a huge problem for me when I was doing interviews, especially on Zoom or Google Hangouts because the call would interrupt the interview, and even if I didn’t take it, it would mess up the audio settings on the interview. But not anymore!

There are actually two parts to this trick. The first is an app called, “Simple Call Forwarding.” It’s $0.99 and totally worth it. It gives you a widget for your home screen with a toggle that allows you to turn it on and off and a very simple interface. See the pictures below. You can get it on the Play StoreĀ here.

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The second part is Google Voice. You can get a free phone number and set up a message for voicemail. When you call my cell phone number it forwards you to my Google Voice number and without even wasting a second of your time with a ring, you hear: “Hi! Thanks for trying to get a hold of me. I do not take unscheduled calls and I do not check voicemail. If you want to talk to me, please send me a text. Thanks!” (Notice that the message does not contain my name or phone number!)

I’m still on my phone a lot. I’m usually in the middle of a dozen text conversations simultaneously, and I love that. With this policy, I control the phone and not the other way around. Instead of constant interruptions, I get to be fully present in conversations. I get to enjoy meals. I get to … you know … enjoy life! I still get to fill all the in between moments of would-be boredom with great conversations and the wonders of the internet without interrupting the stuff in between the in between moments. (And I can still turn my ringer on or back to vibrate and turn off call forwarding when I need to take a call or be available or immediately responsive for logistics purposes.)

Remember how we used to be so excited about how technology would make our lives less stressful and give us more leisure time? How’s that working out for you? Do you feel busier and more stressed than you used to? This one trick of properly cutting off your phone will help this amazing technology fulfill its potential. The technology we have available today is mind-blowing, but you don’t want your mind blown out! Only with deliberate, conscientious use can we fully realize the potential of the technology in our pockets. I hope this little lifehack brings a big measure of peace and presence to your life.

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