Hack Your Notification Badges to Encourage Good Habits

iOS / Android: Choosing how to use your free minutes on your phone can feel like a diet. You can choose Twitter or Facebook every time, angry with yourself for never opening your Kindle or Instapaper. It takes an arsenal of weapons to fight this habit, so here’s another weapon: turn off all your “bad” notification icons and turn on a few good ones.

First, turn off notification icons for any apps that seem like “bad habits.” For the vast majority of us – even bloggers – these updates can wait until the next time we open the app on our own. Twitter knows you don’t need a bright red tally and retweet sticker, but they know it will force you to open the app more, which is why they turn it on by default. Turn it off, watch the icon disappear, and feel that you have achieved true peace.

Look at each notification icon on your phone and ask yourself what would have happened if you hadn’t checked it. If the answer is “maybe nothing,” disable this icon. You may find that this even applies to email or chat apps.

Then enable badges for your good apps. Most workout apps and habits have them enabled by default. But if your goals include queuing up in Instapaper or listening to more podcasts, you can enable badges for those as well. Since these apps don’t usually rely on your constant checks, they leave icons disabled by default. The Kindle and iBooks apps don’t even have an icon. But Instapaper does it, just like the Overcast podcast app for iOS.

These icons may look strange. I have 57 articles on Instapaper, so this icon gets tired sometimes. But this stress does exactly what it should! Now I use Instapaper more often and Twitter less often. This icon is one of the factors.

This trick alone will not do much. You should also set up other notifications so that none of them wakes your phone from sleep mode; you should remove distracting apps from the front screen or hide them in folders. You have to block distracting apps at specific times with apps like Freedom or Offtime . No gimmick can get you off your phone, but try each one to find the combination that works best for you.


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