Dreams of Pings and Notifications Nightmares

by Nov 17, 2014Productivity

The average person checks their phone 150 times a day.

OUCH.

Did you just get a gut ache reading that? Or did a notification come in and you got distracted?

Notifications are the devil. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating, but notifications are the devil. Ok, I'm a little harsh, but really (devil).

TURN OFF YOUR NOTIFICATIONS!!!

Notification weaning is one of the first things I do with my clients. Notifications create reactiveness. When we are constantly being alerted to this and that and who and what, we never have time to focus. It feels urgent, so we respond urgently. Then we teach people that we are responding urgently and now it's expected.

Every time we get a notification, our brain is interrupted and takes up to 25 minutes to get focused again. If you are constantly being interrupted then you are NEVER truly focusing on anything. When people tell me the notifications don't bother them, I call bullshit. You've just become magnificent at fooling yourself. It affects all of us.

Okay, how can I fix it?

1) Turn off your pop-ups.

The absolute first thing you should do is turn off your email pop-ups. How can you be reading two emails at once? You can't. It doesn't help to know that one came in while you're reading another one. If your boss were standing in front of you telling you about your new project, would you turn around and listen to the conversation in the next office for just a second before turning back to her? No. You wouldn't. Reading another email in the middle of reading the current one is the same thing.

2) Get rid of your envelope icon.

This goes one step further, but it doesn't help you to know that there is a new email if you are processing emails correctly. Yep. Email is a process, but that's another post.

3) Install Inbox Pause, Inbox When Ready or work off-line

If you use Gmail or Google apps, install Inbox Pause, or Inbox When Ready so you can process without new emails coming in. If you use Outlook, then work offline while you're processing.

4) Turn off social media notifications on your phone.

OMG! What? I won't know if someone liked my video of the cat ninja-stalking it's human? Trust me, they will still like it a few hours from now when you check it during your social media processing.

5) Turn off your badges.

Badges are the numbers on the app icons on your phone. The ones that tell you how behind you are. Unnecessary. Nothing but stress-inducers and unless you are processing something fully, what's the point?

Exceptions to the rule

I leave my voice mail and my text notifications on, but use Do Not Disturb during my focused work sprints. When I'm done, I'll check to see if any messages came in. Have you thought of turning your ringer (and vibration) off and going to DND during certain times of the day? What about when you're out with friends? I often have my phone on DND during 1:1 meetings and client interactions. It's just a swipe up and a tap to get freedom from the little tyrant.

How do notifications and pop-ups make you feel? Know someone who is captive to their phone? Share this post!

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects