“You’ve got a new email.” the Gmail Checker Plus extension tells me. But I was just working on something, hm, just a brief look? Okay. Philipp M. sent me a mail. Seems like the new sales figures are here. Good. Let’s go back to work. Wait, where was I before? Every one of us faced this situation before, am I right?
We are addicted to notifications and other types of feedback loops. Apps are battling for our attention. That is why they send us notifications for whatever reason — as much as possible. Their feedback loops are omnipresent. Someone retweeted my tweet — bing. Thomas commented on my new profile picture on Facebook — bing. I’ve got a new e-mail — bing. Podio, Slack, Trello — bin, bing, bing … sounds familiar?
A few months ago Philipp G. (follow him on Twitter) and I talked about the notification overflow these days. He told me about an article he recently read. It was about CEO’s turning of all of their notifications in favor of more efficiency and productivity at work, but also at general. At that time, I could not really believe this could improve my workflow. “I need to know when I get new emails, maybe some of them are important”, was one of my initial thoughts. Philipp told me he had turned off lots of the notifications on his smartphone. He impressed me. Going this far, was something I could not imagine for myself.
Guess what? I’ve done it too!
When I started, I was skeptical. The first day without that many “bings” felt strange. Like a smoker who quit smoking, I missed something. The daily drug of notifications as you will. Every now and then I took my phone, pushed the button and — nothing. There was nothing on my screen telling me: “Attention, attention! I want to distract you!”.
Day two was similar though I had these “pseudo-bing” moments. I am sure some of you have experienced them too. During the day, you have this special feeling: “Hey, I am going to receive a notification in a few seconds. Let’s check my smartphone.”. When you click on the button you suddenly see a new message. “Wow, I saw it coming.”, I often thought to myself. But that’s false. Typical “Correlation does not imply causation” (see Wikipedia) mistake, right? There is no premonition is my personal opinion. You just check you smartphone that often, that it would be unusual if sometimes you are just seconds ahead of the next “bing”-moment.
There were a few setbacks I admit. However, after the second week of the experiment, I felt relieved like never before. Turning off almost every notification has changed in my life and stress level definitely. I do not check my smartphone every few seconds because of random notifications anymore. At the same time, I’ve started to read and respond to emails only twice a day. You probably read about this in my last blog. At this point, I can tell you it increased my productivity too. There is less distraction at work now. I even deactivated many of the OS X notifications, which led to the same results.
Summing it up, I can tell you it was not easy at the beginning. But it really pays off. Especially turning off e-mail notifications had the most significant impact on me, compared to other ones (ie. Facebook, WhatsApp, Calendar, Evernote …).
Before you start decreasing notifications, you may have to inform your co-workers and family members. They need to know that you will not see emails instantly anymore. I told everybody, they need to call me if it is really urgent. Otherwise, they will have to wait until I see the message.
Now I want to ask you. Why don’t you turn off some notifications too? I know you cannot turn off all of them in every business. However, every push-notification you turn off will influence your health and well-being. That’s what I can tell you from my experience so far. At least you should try it, even if it is just for one day or one week. Why shouldn’t you?
Follow me on Twitter to discuss this topic further on, if you like.
Thank you Philipp for the inspiration to go this far. Our conversation inspired me to try it and to write this blog at the end. By the way, Philipp is one of the lead designers of Sulu. If you need an innovative CMF (CMS) for your business, you should try it.
Additionally, I was inspired to share my thoughts after I read Matt Galligan’s post “Email is a constant: Why I turned off email notifications”. I agree with him and maybe he and I will inspire you to deactivate some of your notifications now settings too.