Responding to text messages appears to be a simple task for most people. But for me, it always feels like a struggle to stay on top of these conversations.
In theory, I could just dash off a reply when I first see the message, check it off my mental to-do list and move on with my day.
In practice, though, that rarely happens.
Either I’m trying to stay focused on whatever I’m doing at the moment – work, chores, playtime with my kid – and I don’t want to switch gears, or I don’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth to craft a good reply, especially if the response requires more thought or care.
Other times, I let the unanswered texts pile up, and tackling all of them feels too overwhelming. But I also worry that if I don’t respond in the moment, I’ll forget to get back to my friends and family altogether, and look flaky or rude.
Last year, I discovered an iPhone feature that’s been super helpful to me in this department: You can pin your text conversations to the top of your Messages screen.
So when I receive a text that I can’t or don’t want to reply to right away, I pin the convo to help me remember who I need to respond to later. Once I reply, typically at the end of the day, I unpin it and the conversation returns to the regular list.
To pin a text thread on the iPhone, hold down the conversation you want to select from your Messages list. Then you’ll see a few options pop up, one of which is “pin” with a thumbtack icon next to it. Tap that and voila!
Other ways to access the pin feature are to hold down the conversation and drag it to the top, or to press “edit” at the top left-hand side of Messages, then tap “edit pins” and click the yellow thumbtack. Press “done” when you’re finished. You can pin up to nine conversations at one time.
The pinning feature is available on iPhones running iOS 14 or later. Previously, you could also swipe right to pin a conversation; however, that functionality is no longer available on iPhones running iOS 16 or later.
Some people may prefer to just leave messages unread or open them and then mark them “unread” as a way to remember which texts need a response. But personally, I do not like having those red notification bubbles on my home screen. Plus, I like having all the conversations that need my attention at the top of the screen in one place, versus scrolling down to find them individually.
This feature could also be useful if you have ADHD
“Text messages can pop up at any time, and if someone with ADHD opens it and doesn’t respond right away, they may forget to respond in the future because it becomes out of sight, out of mind,” said therapist and digital creator Micheline Maalouf.
“If they choose not to open the message because they are doing something else at the time, the message risks not being opened for days and sometimes even weeks for the same reason.”
On top of that, some people with ADHD have a tendency to overthink their texts, which can also get in the way of them responding.
“And due to heightened rejection sensitivity, they can perceive neutral messages — such as ones without emojis or explanations — as seeming cold, which drives them to wonder if the other person is upset at them or if they have done something wrong and drive them into an overthinking spiral,” Maalouf explained.
Maalouf, who has ADHD herself, said she is often “not in the mood” to reply to texts as they come in.
“I don’t feel like engaging or I don’t open it because I am so focused on the task I am working on when the message comes in,” she said.
“By the end of the day, I am exhausted and less likely to engage with people since I need to recharge on my own. As more messages, calls and tasks come in, the older messages go to the bottom of my list,” Maalouf said. “I have a unique skill of ignoring the little red dot notification on my phone, and therefore completely forget to respond until days later when I decide it’s time to clear the notification.”
Maalouf said that pinning the conversations she needs to respond to is one strategy she’s implemented in her own life — and it’s a tip she gives to her clients as well.
If you’re able to easily see the conversation that needs your attention, “the better chance you have of not ignoring it or forgetting about it,” she said.
Another tip from Maalouf: Set aside a specific chunk of time in your day to respond to messages.
“People with ADHD function better when there is a sense of urgency,” she said. “So creating schedules and deadlines for yourself, whether it’s a schedule to answer texts or a deadline to clear out emails, it can be really helpful.”
Anyone who has a hard time replying to texts can benefit from this iPhone feature, “especially if you have a very busy schedule or are going through something that makes it harder to remember to respond,” Maalouf said.
“Any time we create a system to help us, we have a higher chance of improving our day-to-day,” she said. “So if you have a lot on your plate, are busy parents or business owners, or if it’s just a busier month than usual, having a system like pinning texts or keeping them as ‘unread’ can make a difference.”