Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Smartwatches provide quick access to notifications and shortcuts, but it can be too much of a good thing. That’s why some people are going back to simpler “distraction-free” analog watches. You shouldn’t blame the smartwatch for your bad habits.

The story is similar to what has happened with smartphones. Some people have turned to “minimal phones” as a way to “disconnect” from all the distractions that come with smartphones. The phone isn’t really the problem, though, and neither is your smartwatch.

RELATED: How to Use a Smartphone to Disconnect

You Are in Charge

Answering a call on an Apple Watch.

There’s one thing that’s important to understand when discussing the topic of gadgets being distracting. Your smartwatch is the same as your smartphone, tablet, and computer—it’s a tool. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how to use it.

You are in full control over what happens on your wrist. It’s certainly easy to go overboard with notifications and apps, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Everything that might be annoying about a smartwatch can be turned off permanently or temporarily.

It’s possible to enjoy the practical benefits of a smartwatch while also not allowing it to be a constant distraction in your life. The key to finding that balance is to be more intentional about how you use your smartwatch. You don’t have to take the nuclear option and go back to an analog watch.

RELATED: The iPod is Dead, and So Is Listening to Music Without Distractions

Take Back Control

App notifications management screen on Apple Watch
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

In all honesty, it’s pretty easy to make a smartwatch less annoying. You just have to care enough to take the time to do it. The big thing that most people find annoying about smartwatches is notifications—so turn them off.

That probably sounds pretty obvious, and, well, yeah, it is. There’s no need to be inundated with notifications on your wrist from every single app on your phone. It’s a much better idea to enable notifications for only the most important apps. Everything else will be waiting for you when you check your phone.

The Apple Watch, for example, offers several ways to wrangle notifications. You can turn off annoying notifications directly on the watch, disable the activity and standing reminders, silence notifications, turn on Do Not Disturb, and even hide the red notification dot.

If that’s not enough, you can go the extreme route and turn your smartwatch into a “dumb watch.” The Apple Watch has a “Power Reserve” mode that essentially disables everything and just shows a basic clock face. Samsung Galaxy Watches and Wear OS devices also have a “Watch Only” mode.

You have a lot of options at your disposal. If you find your smartwatch to be too distracting or annoying, there’s no one to blame but you.

RELATED: How to Quickly Turn Off Annoying Notifications on Apple Watch

Use a Less Smart Smartwatch

Fitbit smart watches.

Admittedly, not everyone is good at restraint. The temptation to use every last feature at your fingertips is too hard to pass up. Using a “dumb” analog watch is similar to throwing away all the junk food in your house. Out of sight, out of mind.

However, you don’t have to go all the way back to an analog watch to give yourself a break. Fitness trackers can be a good intermediate between a full-blown smartwatch and an analog watch.

The Fitbit Versa and Sense series are good examples. They’re primarily fitness-focused devices with a few smartwatch-y features thrown in (Google Maps, Google Wallet). It’s a more limited experience that tends to be less distracting, plus battery life is much better than a typical smartwatch.

If that’s still too distracting, you can go for a Withings ScanWatch. It’s an analog watch with a small round display on the watch face. The display can show your steps, heart rate, notifications, and more, plus it has activity and sleep tracking.

The moral of the story here is your smartwatch is only as good or bad as you want it to be. It can be a genuinely useful, positive part of your daily life—or a nuisance. It’s up to you to decide which one it will be.

It’s easy to blame our bad habits on our devices and the apps we use, but it’s ultimately our responsibility. With a few key tweaks here and there, you can have a healthy relationship with your smartwatch and your phone.

The Best Fitness Trackers of 2023

Fitbit Charge 5
Best Fitness Tracker Overall
Fitbit Charge 5
Fitbit Inspire 3
Best Budget Fitness Tracker
Fitbit Inspire 3
Fitbit Ace 3
Best Fitness Tracker for Kids
Fitbit Ace 3
Fitbit Charge 5
Best Fitness Tracker With GPS
Fitbit Charge 5
Apple Watch Series 8
Best Fitness Tracker Watch
Apple Watch Series 8
Whoop 4.0
Best Screenless Fitness Tracker
Whoop 4.0
Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
Read Full Bio »