Reclaiming Your Day from Notification Alerts

This post is a part of the FOMO series running this week on Changing any behavior pattern takes time and work, so I won't act like turning off all of your social media and email accounts is the easiest or even most prudent form of action. These tools enable us to connect with many people we might not get to see on a very regular basis, so there's no need to go crazy with it.

And before we jump into all of the ways that we can approach this, let's clarify just a bit. Just because you use social media and email doesn't mean that you automatically have anxiety or an overwhelming compulsion to check these online channels all the time. If you do, then it's worth looking for ways to make your life more enjoyable.

That said, some of these ideas may help you to be more productive even if you are a more casual user.

Turn Off the Notifications for Everything You Can

I'm not one who's prone to checking messages all the time, but it is awfully hard to resist that flashing notification light on the phone or tablet. It sits there, taunting you with the promise of some new notification. Maybe it's a text message, an email, a Facebook reply. Who knows? You have to check to find out.

Maybe you really need to get those email updates the moment they come in. Okay, that's cool. Do yourself a solid and turn off the Twitter and Facebook notifications. Maybe it's the other way around.

The point is, cut whatever you can. It's not like you're severing your relationship with the friends who use those networks. They'll still be around. It's just that now you can check in when you feel like it instead of being hounded by blinking lights.

Incoming alerts feel like this. (See Stewie drive Lois mad if the video box doesn't show.)

Schedule Moments for Response

You don't want to drop off the map entirely. You just want to feel a little more sane throughout the day.

One way to accomplish both is to set up response times. Check your email at the end of the morning and mid-afternoon. Check Twitter three times a day, at regularly schedule appointment times. Whatever works for you. Just limit those times so that you're not reflexively checking every time the light comes on.

This practice of batching your response times accomplishes a couple of things.

  • You get more peace through the day.
  • You can be more efficient with your response time.

Trying to get focused again after an interruption takes some time, espcially if you're working on something complicated. Batching responses gives you the comfort of knowing that you're keeping up your social obligations while still giving you the freedom to live your life throughout the rest of the day.

If you really need to, set up an autoresponder in your email to let people know when you'll be responding to their message. "I check email at noon and 3. If you need anything urgently, please call me at ###." The 4-Hour Workweek covers the autoresponder message very well with examples, so be sure to check out that book if that's something you're interested in.

Do We Really Need All These Networks?

Tomorrow, we'll think about whether we even need the plethora of ways to communicate that we currently have. By cutting some of these networks altogether, we can focus on being fully present in "real world" conversations more easily.

What about you? Have you found an effective means at keeping your digital life from intruding on the rest of your world?