Turn Off Your Notifications

The first of the 7 Principles is to work on only one thing at a time. Unfortunately, one of the most common ways that doing so gets disrupted is when we let our computers and phones interrupt us with notifications. You can only work on one thing at a time if your electronic devices aren’t constantly interrupting you.

If you let the apps you install on your computer or phone have their way, they tend to turn on the vast majority of the notifications they can provide, “just in case” you might not want to miss them. Some, like the work chat app HipChat even acknowledge what they’re doing by calling their default settings “Loud”.

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That can mean that for many people, all day long, their phone is buzzing or beeping, and the corners and edges of their computer screens are bouncing, flashing and otherwise drawing attention to notification messages.

It wouldn’t be a problem if every one of those notifications was important or urgent, requiring timely action. But, most people find that the vast majority of these notifications are often not only not something that needs action, but aren’t even worth reading. According to psychologists, this ends up being a toxic source of stress.

Combine that with open plan offices and you can end up with the digital equivalent of second hand smoke, with the devices of those around you chiming into the notification chaos. And, setting them to vibrate doesn’t help much when a vibrating phone turns an entire desk or table into an amplifier.

What’s the result of all of this? Nearly constant interruption, often coming from people who don’t even know they’re interrupting you.

Imagine you live in an apartment and the mail is delivered to a lobby mailbox. When the postal worker brings your mail, there’s no indication up in your apartment. So, you typically stop by once per day, after the time you know it typically is delivered.

Now imagine that you installed a clever device in your mailbox that sent a signal to a siren in your apartment when the mail is delivered. Tomorrow, when the mail is delivered, the siren will go off, interrupting whatever you’re doing at the time. When you go down to the mailbox, it’s nothing but 3 offers from Comcast and a credit card application.

Repeat similar experiences for a couple of weeks and you’ll probably start seeing the postal worker as an irritating source of interruption. However, this entire time, that postal worker has had no idea they are interrupting you. The interruptions were something you invited.

By clicking “yes” when apps ask if they can interrupt you, you gave them permission to do this. And, you often made unwitting accomplices of those you communicate with.

So, how do we fix it? The easiest and most effective place to start is to turn them all off. Then, add back the ones you can’t miss (like your boss emailing or texting you). Nearly all devices now support a VIP-like status for certain contacts, so you can ensure that notifications from specific sources still get through.

Further, most of those device settings let you specify things like ignoring calls unless the same person calls back twice.

Carefully applying these settings will ensure a balance between people needing to be able to get through to you and your need to avoid interruption, so you can focus on your work.

Whenever people I’ve worked with have been willing to try this, they have found that they tended to pick a few times a day to check in on the rest of their incoming information. And, more than a few have discovered that they actually didn’t even care about some of the sources of the interruptions at all and ended up removing the applications entirely.

Keep all of this in mind if an email from 7 Interruptions EVER interrupts you and consider turning those notifications off. When you email us, it never interrupts.

That can mean that for many people, all day long, their phone is buzzing or beeping, and the corners and edges of their computer screens are bouncing, flashing and otherwise drawing attention to notification messages.

It wouldn’t be a problem if every one of those notifications was important or urgent, requiring timely action. But, most people find that the vast majority of these notifications are often not only not something that needs action, but aren’t even worth reading. According to psychologists, this ends up being a toxic source of stress.

Combine that with open plan offices and you can end up with the digital equivalent of second hand smoke, with the devices of those around you chiming into the notification chaos. And, setting them to vibrate doesn’t help much when a vibrating phone turns an entire desk or table into an amplifier.

What’s the result of all of this? Nearly constant interruption, often coming from people who don’t even know they’re interrupting you.

Imagine you live in an apartment and the mail is delivered to a lobby mailbox. When the postal worker brings your mail, there’s no indication up in your apartment. So, you typically stop by once per day, after the time you know it typically is delivered.

Now imagine that you installed a clever device in your mailbox that sent a signal to a siren in your apartment when the mail is delivered. Tomorrow, when the mail is delivered, the siren will go off, interrupting whatever you’re doing at the time. When you go down to the mailbox, it’s nothing but 3 offers from Comcast and a credit card application.

Repeat similar experiences for a couple of weeks and you’ll probably start seeing the postal worker as an irritating source of interruption. However, this entire time, that postal worker has had no idea they are interrupting you. The interruptions were something you invited.

By clicking “yes” when apps ask if they can interrupt you, you gave them permission to do this. And, you often made unwitting accomplices of those you communicate with.

So, how do we fix it? The easiest and most effective place to start is to turn them all off. Then, add back the ones you can’t miss (like your boss emailing or texting you). Nearly all devices now support a VIP-like status for certain contacts, so you can ensure that notifications from specific sources still get through.

Further, most of those device settings let you specify things like ignoring calls unless the same person calls back twice.

Carefully applying these settings will ensure a balance between people needing to be able to get through to you and your need to avoid interruption, so you can focus on your work.

Whenever people I’ve worked with have been willing to try this, they have found that they tended to pick a few times a day to check in on the rest of their incoming information. And, more than a few have discovered that they actually didn’t even care about some of the sources of the interruptions at all and ended up removing the applications entirely.

Keep all of this in mind if an email from 7 Interruptions EVER interrupts you and consider turning those notifications off. When you email us, it never interrupts.