Goodbye, Notifications

Hello, Increased Focus

July 11, 2014Filed under techMarkdown source

In this week’s episode of Accidental Tech Podcast, hosts Casey Liss and John Siracusa mentioned that they have the sound aspect of notifications disabled on their iDevices (Liss’ iPhone, Siracusa’s iPod Touch). Strange though it might seem, the thought hadn’t occurred to me. I like getting the notice of things having happened on my social media accounts, but I’d concluded recently that I actively disliked having the interruption even of a buzz in my pocket: it forces a mental context shift which inevitably degrades my concentration on whatever task I am about.

I spent ten minutes this evening and went through my iPhone’s notification settings. The only things which have audible or vibrating notifications now are phone calls (including FaceTime) and text messages. Everything else I disabled. Now, I still have notifications on a number of other items: they can show up in Notification Center, and they can put markers on the home screen apps. After all: if I already have my phone out, it is almost certainly no problem to see a notification come in, and I definitely want to be able to glance at the app on my home screen and see that someone has interacted with me in some way. But when I don’t have my phone out? It is unhelpful. It is distracting.

I actually turned on app badges for a number of apps for which I had previously disabled them, because they had been extraneous when I was getting noises or buzzes for the apps and services in question. I also tweaked a number of other apps: some can show app badges but not appear in notification center. Most cannot show anything on the lock screen at all. If I want to check on notifications, I can look explicitly.

We will see how the experiment goes. Even just a few hours in, though, I can already say I like it. I did not get any buzzing in my pocket when a few people interacted with me on App.net, or Instagram, or anywhere else. And, social media being what it is, none of those interactions are temporally important (however much it might feel otherwise). They will still be there waiting when I get back.

Now, this does not automatically make me more productive. I still need self control to be most effective in using my time. It does take away a few of the most obvious distractions and interruptions that make it hard to focus, though, and that is definitely a win.