McD's Blog

You'll Notice this Notice is not Worth Noticing.

When I first got a smart watch, I thought this wondrous device would mean I didn't have to look at my phone ever again. I could get all the notifications on my wrist, and with a glance I could see if it was worthy of my attention.

I now have zero notifications turned on.

By tapping me on the wrist, every notification had my attention whether I liked it or not. I discovered something that seems pretty obvious in hindsight: none of them deserved that attention. Not really.

That email from my boss? That can wait until I'm in front of my PC. If I go back to Candy Crush now, I can get 5 free gems? Ugh.

I had put all of my notifications to the same level of importance. The text from my Mum telling me my childhood dog had died, and an email reminder from my dentist were now requiring the same level of my attention.

I hope your Mum calls you instead of texting you that your dog has died. That's something important. That's something that will make we want to stop what I'm doing. But something like an email -- any email, no matter the subject line -- can wait. I only check email mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and only on days that I'm in the office. And guess what? Nothing dies. Nobody even notices.

This has led to me disabling notifications for email everywhere. No notifications on my watch, my phone, not even applications on my PC. I even went a step further and setup a rule in Outlook that immediately marks all received email as read. This is just the tip of the iceberg of a whole lot of healthy habits with email that I'll talk about another time.

It feels to me like other people are conducting this same experiment with their phones by leaving all notifications turned on. Their phones cry out for attention constantly. Maybe people can ignore their phone dinging all the time. Maybe they don't notice. Maybe they notice, but they don't care. If you're like me (I hope you're not) you can't ignore it. I do care. That's why I'm successful (based on my own criteria, not promotions and money). If you read this far, you are probably similar to me (sorry).

If you change nothing else, please at least silence work notification after hours. You shouldn't be getting notifications for your emails until at least an hour after you've started work. I would argue you shouldn't get notifications for emails any time of day, but you can work your way up to that.

A growing trend, that has been growing for decades, is that we all need fewer interruptions and more focus. We need to take things slower, at a more natural, sustainable, pace. Silencing notifications, or at least thinking about which things get to steal your attention, is a small change. Try it - you will see that the outcome of it is far from a small change.

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