Stop your phone distracting you by stashing it in a mini mailbox

Guy Dupont is a most excellent maker. He modded an ancient iPod so he could stream Spotify like it’s 2002, and built a portable printer so no one would ever have to suffer a QR menu in a restaurant ever again. But he found himself getting distracted from his creative quests by his phone, and so he fashioned something delightfully meta to manage his mail.

Hardware

  • A Raspberry Pi, acting as a wireless router
  • Adafruit FeatherS3
  • Battery (connected to the FeatherS3)
  • Adafruit MiniBoost 5V driving the servo that lifts the red flag
  • A mailbox
  • A mechanical switch
the electronics mentioned in the list under the hardware title laid out on a wooden table and wired to each other
Hardware class photo

How does it work?

Guy has set up two different kinds of defence against focus-destroying phone notifications. First up, a Raspberry Pi acts as a Wi-Fi router on Guy’s home network, running a custom DNS server that watches out for IP addresses associated with push notifications. Before the notifications make it to his phone, the Raspberry Pi redirects them to nonsense IP addresses.

But this IP address blocking only happens when the phone is out in the open and Guy needs saving from himself and his notifications. Something entirely different happens when he puts the phone inside the mini mailbox.

Magical mailbox

There’s a mechanical switch inside the mailbox, connected to the Adafruit FeatherS3. When the mailbox is closed, the switch is activated, the Wi-Fi network reboots, and the FeatherS3 tells the Raspberry Pi that it’s safe to let push notifications reach the phone as normal.

guy sat outside in a skatepark wearing a coat and talking about his creation. a break out window in the top right of the screen shows the inside of the mailbox with the hardware all wired in
Guy talks through the highs and lows of the project in his build video

Phone it in

An Adafruit MiniBoost 5V makes a servo motor lift the red flag whenever a phone notification comes in. It is then up to Guy to decide when he wants to take his phone out of the mailbox and begin the endless cycle of distraction that plagues so many of us these days. The idea is that if he has to physically walk somewhere to check his phone, he’ll be distracted less often than if it were face up on the desk next to him, where he’ll glance over at it 14 times an hour.

You could combine this project with a step count challenge, moving your phone further and further away from your workstation. Right at the end of a very long driveway perhaps, like in Forrest Gump. That guy certainly got his steps in, which was my main takeaway from the film.

forrest gump stood next to a row of white traditional mailboxes on fence posts with a long winding driveway disappearing into the distance beyond
See, miles from the house

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