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How to Stop Checking Your Phone by Replacing It With Your Computer

Isn’t it annoying that when you’re on your computer, you always have one eye and one ear glued to your phone to check for incoming beeps, rings, and pings?

Having to hop back and forth between your computer and phone for responding to calls, SMSes, chats, and so on can drive you crazy. We recommend turning your computer into a makeshift smartphone. That should get rid of this device hopping nuisance once and for all. You sit in front of your computer for several hours a day anyway, right? We’ll show you how to take advantage of it.

Note: To be clear, we’re not talking about reducing smartphone addiction here. It’s more about having one less device to deal with for the better part of the day.

Take Stock of Your Phone Usage

Before you can begin to move your phone-based activities to your computer, you have to figure out which ones they are. Ask yourself what makes you reach for your phone. We’ll take phone calls, SMSes, chat messages, and emails as a given. What else? Moving files around, viewing photos, catching up on feeds, playing music, and watching videos, we assume.

As you can see, managing work-related and personal communication figures high on the list of things to do with your phone. Let’s focus on shifting those to your computer.

Email and Chat From a Single Location

Both on your phone and your computer, you already have an email client and an instant messaging app, right? A dedicated app for WhatsApp and one for Skype/Hangouts, we take it. Slack client? Sure, throw that in as well. That’s five apps too many — apps that you don’t need when there are smart all-in-one messenger apps like Franz.

Franz slashes the communication points that you have to keep track of to the awesome number of one. It puts everything from Gmail to Slack to WhatsApp in a single, tabbed, easy-to-manage interface.

Once you install Franz, setting up all your email and messaging accounts is straightforward, so you should have zero trouble with that. Franz supports multiple accounts for the same service, which means that you can access your work and personal email in separate tabs, unless all your mail arrives in a single account already.

The best part about Franz is that you can mute notifications for individual accounts. Isn’t that great when you want to silence personal communication during work hours?

Rambox makes a great alternative to Franz, and it even supports more services than Franz does.

If you already use an instant messaging (IM) client — like Pidgin or Adium or Messages (on macOS) — that supports various chat protocols, you can bring all your chat accounts to it.

If your chat app supports XMPP (Jabber), you can use that app to chat on Slack as well. This works only if your team owner has enabled team-wide XMPP gateway access for using third-party messaging clients. If it has, you can find your Jabber credentials at this address:

your_team_name.slack.com/account/gateways

Plug those into your instant messenger to chat with your Slack colleagues.

Some would say that you don’t need chat clients anymore. If you also believe that, get your computer’s web browser to handle all your communication.

Bring Phone Calls and SMSes to Your Computer

Let’s talk SMS first. If you’re an Android user, you’ll love MightyText, which allows you to manage your message stream from your desktop. Install the app on your Android phone and get either the corresponding desktop app or browser extension on your PC. You should then be able to read and send SMSes from your computer. Typing is so much easier on a full-sized keyboard!

You can also access this SMS sync service from its web app. If you use the Rambox app that we mentioned above, add MightyText to it to keep your SMSes in the same place as your chats and emails.

There are other ways to send a free SMS from your Windows PC, but MightyText rules them all.

If you, as well as your friends and family, mostly use Apple devices, using FaceTime and iMessage on your Mac to communicate with each other is a no-brainer. Thanks to the Continuity feature introduced in Yosemite, you can also handle regular phone calls and SMSes arriving on your iPhone from your Mac.

Of course, there are a few caveats to deal with. Continuity between your Mac and iPhone will work only if both the devices are on the same Wi-Fi network and are signed into the same iCloud account.

Here’s more about how Continuity works. Sure, the feature is not the best solution out there. But it can only get better.

Using apps and devices that belong to the same tech ecosystem does make your life easier, but not doing so is okay too. For example, Mac users need not always buy iPhones.

If you’re an Android-owning Mac user (or even an Android + Windows PC user) install the AirDroid desktop client. It does much more than mirror your phone’s notifications. AirDroid is like a remote control for your phone. You can use it to respond to phone calls and SMSes, transfer files, play music, and also mirror your Android device on your computer screen.

It’s great that you can handle phone calls from your computer, but you must be careful about which apps and websites you grant microphone access to. That’s because your computer’s microphone is a potential privacy leak.

Push Notifications

Pushbullet used to be the first service that everyone recommended for pushing notifications from your phone to your computer. That changed once the makers of Pushbullet put some of its best free features behind a paywall. This has caused many people to switch to free Pushbullet alternatives. The service still has a free version though.

If you use AirDroid, you don’t need a separate app like Pushbullet for mirroring notifications. AirDroid does the job just fine.

Generate Verification Codes

If you use two-factor authentication (2FA) — and we think you should — you need Google Authenticator or one of its alternatives to generate verification codes from your computer. That’s so much more convenient than having codes sent to your phone every time.

Keep in mind that when you enable 2FA for an online account, you should add your phone number as a backup for receiving codes. This is to ensure that you don’t get locked out of your account if the authenticator app is unavailable or unusable for some reason.

Want a list of websites for which you can enable two-step verification? Two Factor Auth is what you’re looking for. It also mentions which websites don’t support 2FA.

We agree that 2FA can feel like an annoying extra step, but it adds a much-needed second layer of security to your digital life, which is always welcome. Here’s how to make 2FA less annoying.

If you use your phone for catching up on feeds, watching movies on Netflix, and reading ebooks, those activities don’t have to get left behind. Install the desktop counterparts for your mobile apps or bookmark their web apps for easy access. After all, many of your phone’s apps began as web services and got ported to mobile devices later on.

Turn On Do Not Disturb Mode

Moving all your communication to your computer gets rid of the problem of constant phone checking. But it creates a new one of its own — an endless stream of notifications when you’re trying to get some work done.

The fix is simple: turn on Do Not Disturb mode (DND) for your computer. To do this on a Mac, click on the Notification Center icon at the extreme right in the status bar and drag the Do Not Disturb slider to the right. On Windows 10, the Quiet Hours feature is the equivalent of DND. You can control Quiet Hours from the Action Center.

Don’t stop at the DND mode. Here’s what else you can do to get a distraction-free computer.

What Happens to Your Phone?

Of course, we’re not asking you to give up your phone altogether. This approach is just to ensure that you don’t have to go back and forth between devices so many times a day and can get everything done from your computer at a moment’s notice.

Using your computer as a temporary phone is most helpful when you’re at work — you can mute your actual phone, keep it aside, turn on DND on your computer, and focus on your work. When you’re taking a break, skim through your phone’s updates from your computer to satisfy your curiosity.

We promise that you won’t miss out on anything that’s going on with your phone. Once your workday is over, shut down your computer and get back to your phone.

Depending on your communication needs and the combination of phone and computer you use, you might have to jump through a few hoops initially to make it all work. But once everything is in place, you’ll find that the effort was worth it.

What else would you suggest for cutting down on the frustration that’s device hopping? Leave your best tips in the comments!

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