A couple of years ago I had a little mental breakthrough in my productivity. While I hadn’t really noticed it, I was not getting as much done as I could. I knew I felt like I couldn’t focus all the time, but I wasn’t sure what the root cause was. That was until I read a blog post about constant distractions from notifications. *ding*
I looked at my phone and saw a list of notifications…texts, Facebook notifications, messenger messages, Instagram likes & comments notifications, new email notifications, apps that needed updating, and so on. This was constant, and they weren’t just showing up, they were making noises to announce their arrival, blinking my phone light, lighting up the whole screen, and vibrating my phone.
It’s a wonder I ever got anything done.
In addition, my computer was making a noise when it checked my email every 3 minutes (yes, every 3 minutes) and showing a little pop up in the lower corner for what new messages just came in. My open Facebook tab (that I ALWAYS kept open) would flash when there were notifications and more dings would sound as Facebook messages came in.
Talk about a distracted work zone.
Looking back at this, it’s obvious that these things were hugely distracting to my productivity, and on top of that, were an added stress. Even when things don’t seem like they are stressful, they can create underlying stress. Perhaps you’re wondering if its someone messaging you bad news or if it’s a message from someone you don’t want to talk with right now. Or you feel like you have to answer a message but you know you need to focus on your work that you’re behind on. Plus it’s stress to your mind to have to try to multitask or switch constantly between tasks when you’re trying to focus.
These constant stresses can result in the output of cortisol. Constant stress response is exhausting to the body and can lead to fatigue, anxiety, poor digestion, low energy, and weight gain (to name a few). Our body doesn’t want to be “on” all the time. It needs time to be parasympathetic, or in a rest mode.
In a world where stress abounds, the last thing we need is adding extra stress just so that we feel “on top of things”.
Because really, 99% of what’s dinging on your phone or computer is NOT important. No, I’m serious, it’s not.
It doesn’t matter that someone you follow posted a new twitter post.
It doesn’t matter if someone liked a post of yours right now.
Someone asking if you are free this weekend can wait until you take a break later for a reply.
New emails can wait until your scheduled time to check on new messages.
And most phone calls & texts can be addressed later.
I decided I deserved a better work enviornment
I wanted to be productive and focused. I already know that I’m easily distracted and pulled away, and my phone and computer notifications were not helping at all. So here’s what I did:
1. I turned off notifications for new posts, likes, comments, & shares. Now the only way I see these is when I go into the app. I promise you it will be fine. 😉
2. When I install any new app, the first thing I do is go into the app settings and turn off all notifications (messages, sounds, vibrations, etc). If a notification still pops up, I click on the notification and turn them off for that app from there.
3. The only notifications I get on my phone now are for phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages, and a reminder to meditate from my Calm app. And when I’m working, I put my phone in another room. I do check phone calls as they come to see if they are from my kids’ school, and I check texts periodically when I take breaks to make sure my girls don’t need something.
4. I changed the email settings on my computer to check way less often, and I also turned off any popup notifications & noises. I also close my email when I’m working on something else.
5. I don’t allow any website to give me notifications, and I don’t keep any Facebook tabs open so I won’t get any sort of notifications from that.
6. When I’m working on a project, I open a new Desktop in Windows (Bring this up using the Windows Key + Tab and then click “New Desktop”). I open only what I need in that Desktop so that I can’t quickly open my email to check it or switch to that other tab to look at a new Facebook notification. I only open what is essential for working on my current task.
With so many notifications turned off (or temporarily silenced/closed), I have found a new level of focus as I work. And when I’m going about my day I’m not constantly pulled to check my phone instead of working on the task at hand or focusing on the people I’m with.
I feel less stressed because I don’t feel like I need to keep looking at these new notifications. I don’t feel like I need to see what’s happening right this second or wonder if someone is liking or commenting on something. Instead, I set times when I take a break to check social media. I only look at my email occasionally throughout the day (instead of constantly).
I want to encourage you to take a hard look at how your phone is “talking” to you throughout the day. If you don’t think it’s a distraction, try an experiment. Keep a notepad nearby, and every time your phone rings, dings, or vibrates with notifications, make a tally mark. At the end of the day see how many times you were distracted. I’m guessing it’s going to be more than you would guess.
Try working for a few hours with your phone completely silenced, your email program closed, and no other browser tabs or programs open except for what you are actively working on. See what happens! If you’re like me, you’ll be amazed at what you get done.
Let’s take away the distractions that keep us from creating, doing, experiencing, and connecting. Learning to focus and be in the moment is such a challenge in our busy world. But the benefits are so worth it!