Stop Looking At So Many Notifications

Your phone probably is buzzing right now. What’s new? A text from your bank, some random newsletter that you should probably unsubscribe from, your weather app trying to sell you something, and your favorite freemium game saying that some castle build is finally done. Day-in and day-out you’ll be getting hundreds of these kinds of notifications, both on your phone and on your computer. When an app asks for your permission to send notifications, we all blindly tend to agree.

These notifications are obviously distracting, they’re mostly not needed, but more often than not, we just swipe them away and don’t think anything else of it. Why not? Swiping does take less than a second, after all. But similarly to the growing number of email newsletters that each and every one of us never gets around to unsubscribing from, this is a situation where a small time investment will make you more productive and free up time in the long run.

Even if it takes 5 seconds to unlock your phone, read a notification, and swipe it away, the wasted time is not 5 seconds. You also need to get back into the groove and train of thought of whatever you were previously doing (especially during work), which could take more time. Even at a couple of minutes, if this happens a few times a day, you’re looking at hours and hours of wasted time a year. And for no good reason. Of course, this is even worse if you actually open up the app in question and begin doing something (reading up on an event invite you’ve just received, for example).

Going off of that, I’ve found that I’m most productive when I’m in “the groove”, so to speak. This happens both on an hourly scale and on a daily scale. If I had a good stretch of continuous uninterrupted time, for example two hours, it’s more productive than the sum of two one-hour periods that have a meeting in between. Same goes for a good work week. If I spend the weekends (or any weekdays) in some kind of unproductive or distracting manner (for example, a travel day) then I’ll lose momentum. Naturally, you can’t expect all stretches of time to be perfectly continuous and distraction-free, but you can and should do anything in your power to minimize the distractions that you have control over.

So do this right now: go into the notification center on your phone, and go one-by-one through all of the apps. I’m sure you will (as I did) find a ton of apps that you shouldn’t even have anymore. Delete those, of course. Then make sure that the only apps giving you notifications are the ones you want. Also — go into your Do Not Disturb (or equivalent) settings and consider setting scheduling for your work hours in addition to the nighttime.

Distractions and time-wasters that happen on a continuous basis, even if each individual event is extremely short, adds up over time on its own and additionally disrupts flow. It’s important to invest a bit of time upfront and make sure that you’re getting rid of these whenever you can.