Managing Phone Notifications

Over the past few months, you may have noticed that a lot of my posts have focused on different ways that you can use technology to save time and work more productively. As a father of two little kids, my time has quickly become one area of my life that I protect. Making sure I am around for their activities and to see them grow up is something that I feel is super important for both them and my wife and me.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts about an area that I still struggle with but feel like I am getting better at.

A few years ago I read Nir Eyal’s book Hooked. The book is about how to positively build habit-building products. In the book, Eyal shares that in order to build a habit-building product you need to have some sort of internal or external triggers.

One of the worst external triggers we face is the dreaded phone notification. Something like a push notification or red dot can be extremely distracting and take us out of our current situation. I know myself I have found myself stop mid-conversation with someone to check my phone because I got a notification.

A few years ago I went through all of my notifications and tried to cut out the ones that I felt were not really needed. One of the first to go was email notifications, then Facebook (ultimately I purged the entire app from my phone), and then anything else I felt was causing me to get distracted. While this helped a lot I still had a hard time sometimes choosing which notifications to turn off.

A few months ago Nir Eyal published a new book about being indistractable. Since I enjoyed Hooked so much I had to pick this book up. In the book Eyal shares about how to master your internal triggers, make time for important work, and how to hack back external triggers.

In the introduction to the section on hacking back external triggers Eyal shares a great test, you can use to determine if you should mute a notification.

Is the trigger serving me or am I serving it?

Indistractable by Nir Eyal

If you are not sure if you should turn off a notification ask yourself is the trigger serving you or are you serving it? In the book Eyal points out that not all notifications are bad. Notifications that remind us about healthy habits (Apple Watch’s stand notification, meditation reminders, food logs, etc.) can be super helpful for building good habits or staying on track to meeting a goal. Notifications about what a celebrity recently did or who liked your picture are distractions and keep you from meeting your goals.

A notification is a great tool. When used correctly they can inform us about important things. When used incorrectly they can become distractions that keep us from meeting our goals. If you are looking for more ideas on how to regain your focus I highly suggest checking out Indistractable.

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