Notifications Hell – Yet Again

Part of living in today’s world is taking control of our wonderful devices that distract us with their buzzing, beeping, or banners they use to notify us of the whatever in the hell is going on.

What is amazing to me, is how we stop whatever we are doing and immediately look at the latest notification to see what it is. We have been so well-trained by our devices and gotten so used to doing so that we don’t even realize what we are doing until it is done.

But part of what makes social media insidious is that the companies that profit from your attention have succeeded with a masterful marketing coup: convincing our culture that if you don’t use their products you might miss out.

Cal Newport – Deep Work

After all, if we don’t act on the notification immediately, we might miss out on whatever it is we are being notified about.

Wrong.

CHANGES

With the recent demise of my Pixel 2 LS Chromebook and while switching back to my iPad Pro, I realized how many buzzes, beeps, banners, pop ups and advertisements had crept back into my life. All those notifications that we allow, because at the time it seemed like a great idea to get notified of a new post, product, tweet or like.

I have been reading Hyper-focus by Chris Bailey and Deep Work by Cal Newport, both of which have given me a few new ideas on how to regain my attention and focus more on the things I want to do. In other words not be as distracted by my phone or laptop, or television, along with a few other things like I have been recently.

The first point is that we increasingly recognize that these tools fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate. This reality no longer generates much debate; we all feel it. This is a real problem for many different people, but the problem is especially dire if you’re attempting to improve your ability to work deeply.

Cal Newport – Deep Work

If you have been paying attention at all to how much our devices distract us, we all pretty much know and realize this, but often do not do anything about it. It is almost as if we have abdicated our attention to our technology.

Reducing the Distractions

When I moved back to my iPad Pro and realized what I was doing to myself, I disabled almost all the notifications and then I did the same on my phone. The only ones I kept were the ones that are necessary — due to the way we are now shopping or are from people that I want to be able contact me the first time.

Technology should exist for our convenience, not for the convenience of anyone who wants to interrupt us.

Chris Bailey – Hyperfocus

On both devices I got rid of all my social media apps and any other apps that I do not use at least weekly. I access Twitter and Facebook through the browser, which adds some friction to getting to them, so that I am not tapping on an the app mindlessly. I do not allow notifications from social media apps and have noticed a huge difference in how often the phone or computer no longer is distracting me to see the latest update from whomever. Hell, I even got rid of the Strava app on my phone — wonders will never cease!

The way that I see things the fewer apps on any device, means the fewer distractions and choices for me to make. Also turning off most of the notifications makes life a lot quieter. I was amazing how often my phone or computers: beeped, buzzed, vibrated or flashed a banner to tell me a site, app or something wanted my attention.

I am not missing those distractions at all.

Also, I include the TV as a device. It has become such a part of most our lives, that many times it is an overlooked source of focus interruption and the way I see it – energy draining. When a TV is on in the vicinity we look at them to see what is going on much more than we realize. Then that attention shift interrupts whatever we are doing. So I have been turning it off most of the time and today realized that I haven’t missed it.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?

I have written about my efforts to get back my attention back from the devices that I use or carry before.

Several times.

However, in today’s world keeping on top of our notifications and alerts are not something that you can do once and forget about it (that is what the professionals hope for). Keeping track of what we say yes to and allow to notify us of whatever, it is one of those ongoing efforts that we have to keep on top of.

Otherwise, device and notification creep “just happens” and is insidious.

While Newport’s and Bailey’s books both provide information on more than reducing electronic distractions, they did help me realize how bad I had let myself slide into notifications hell. Yet, until I started moving back to my iPad Pro, I didn’t grasp how often both my laptop and phone were distracting me and how I had allowed it to happen. I had become like Pavlov’s dogs and responded to technologies needs versus my needs.

The old saying is true:

Technology is great until it ain’t. 

Unknown

Now, that I have the notification hell somewhat under control, I have to start working on a place to write/work where other distractions do not grab my attention as easily. Working at the kitchen table or my recliner in the living room, bring their own set of distractions.

One thing at a time grasshopper, one thing at a time.

How about you, have you tamed the insidious notification creep on your devices? How did you do it?

2 Comments

  1. A few weeks ago at work (err …. while working at home), my notifications were dinging pretty much constantly and I snapped. I had to turn off the sound and the flyout banner, which is a gamble because a lot of that stuff I need to see. I’m way less distracted and haven’t missed anything.
    In my non-work life, I have almost all notifications turned off (and have not been on social media for more than two weeks, which was hard at first, but now is great). Only text message and phone calls make noise on my phone and email on my phone only has the badge. On my personal computer, email and calendar events have flyouts, and that is it (though my phone rings on there too and I need to turn that off).
    I’m still absurdly distracted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am lucky, no one calls me and texts are minimal, I have pared away most of my social media stuff and only keep enough to keep things interesting. If someone gets too off on tangents, I snooze them for a while and if they keep it up bye-bye. It is a constant battle to keep notifications of any kind to reasonable levels, but moving back to the iPad and I might have found an old iPhone SE and will be moving to that after a bit. I am finding that with the Apple stuff I don’t seem to go into notification hell as much or as quickly as I do with Google based stuff. Gee I wonder why? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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