Productivity Hack: Turn Off All Notifications

I have become an avid listener of the Young Entrepreneur Lifestyle podcast.

Working my way through the episodes, a huge productivity recommendation by host Peter Voogd is to turn off all notifications on your phone.

On first hearing this, it sounds outlandish but, as is often said, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it,” so that I have done. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking the following:

“But what about if XXX calls or texts me?"

“I need to know when my favorite blog (this blog for you reading) makes a new post.”

“What about my important emails?"

"And notifications from my favorite apps?”

I’ll go beyond hypotheticals to give some real-world examples:

  • I love watching broadcasts on Periscope about entrepreneurship, fitness, travel and anything else I might find interesting. I’d probably get at least 20 notifications an hour because there is no way (yet) to selectively opt-in to notifications for when specific people I’m following start to broadcast.
  • I get notifications from the Human activity tracking app to alert me when I’ve been inactive for too long and when I’ve reached activity goals throughout the day.
  • I’ve set up Twitter to notify me when certain accounts I’m following send out tweets. 9to5mac.com is one such example.
  • Reminders from the coach.me app.
  • Countless WhatsApp notifications from group conversations and other one-on-one chats.
  • Add to those email notifications for work and personal accounts.

The list is quite extensive but I think you’re seeing my point by now. We get all these notifications throughout the day, and the tendency is to give them our immediate attention, often in the fear of missing out on new information.

In work environments, where it might be frowned upon to use mobile devices during working hours, this may not be a problem, but when you’re working alone out of your home office, or working with a small team where you essentially make the rules, it’s necessary to mentally equip yourself with the right productivity framework.

The Hypothesis

In Episode #26 of the Young Entrepreneur Lifestyle podcast, Peter mentions resistance to distractions as his first productivity tip. He goes on to explain, very simply, what makes us desire and encourage these distractions: our addiction to new information.

New information is a good thing when it aids our personal growth; however, the majority of the information we are subjected to does not. The problem is that our brains are wired to crave new information and, when we get it, it feels good.

Exceptions

As you might expect, there must be some exceptions to the rule. Peter Voogd doesn’t mention this but I will because I think it’s more a realistic view.

For iPhone users, such as myself, there is the very convenient option of allowing incoming calls from particular groups of contacts when Do Not Disturb is enabled. Of course, adding all your contacts to your Favorites defeats the purpose, so only immediate family members and very, very close friends, who already know not to call me unless it’s really important, are included in in this group for me.

All other apps will obey the Do Not Disturb setting, however, so their notifications will be silenced without discrimination.

It is possible to selectively disable apps from delivering notifications in the "Notifications" section of the Settings app; however, I prefer the all-or-nothing approach of Do Not Disturb.

Results

Having run the experiment for a week so far, I think the hypothesis is correct. The results have been amazing in fact.

During that time, I’ve received only 2 phone calls—both of which were from my mother. I’ve communicated with my friends through all the various social channels—Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—but on my own time and certainly not during earmarked productive time.

I have to strongly agree this is the way it should be and I’m sorry it took so long to commit to it.

I’ve earned a real appreciation for detachment from constant pings and vibrations of distractions and the difference it makes to productivity.

Are you ready to squawk 7600?