I’ve started muting notifications… and it is bliss!
I realised several years ago that I was being driven bananas by the constant influx of notifications. There are the client messages on WhatsApp, the school and activity updates on Facebook, the continuous chat from half-acquaintances that you somehow end up in messaging groups with…
I felt rather smug when I realised that you could mute a chat temporarily on Signal or WhatsApp. “Great,” I thought, “I can pop in when notified, see if the topic is relevant, and then mute it if it isn’t!” It seemed like a great plan and for a long time it worked, or at least I thought it did.
The noise of doom
Every time I heard that tell-tale noise, I was visibly irate. I am a very calm and collected person, even under times of immense pressure, but that tiny noise was enough to push my buttons. The noise would go, I would hop in to check, and inevitably hit the “mute for 8 hours” button. But each time I went round this loop, I lost my concentration, was pulled from whatever task I was doing, and next to never received any information that needed to be received in a timely fashion. It mentally fatigued me, took me out of my flow, and yet I somehow felt compelled to continue in case I missed something crucial.
A voice of wisdom
It was my husband’s idea that sparked a change. He suggested, as it so clearly irritates me when I receive these notifications, that I turn them off altogether and instead, as I am highly organised, made myself a reminder to check at the right point in time. For example, one of my son’s sports activities has a frantically busy WhatsApp group but the session is on a Monday night. I have set a calendar reminder to pop in and check the group on a Monday morning, so we know all we need to know.
Part of me, the A-type personality that has to organise the world in the most efficient manner possible, worries that we’ll miss a notification that a session is cancelled. And part of me, the child born in the 80s where we accepted that sometimes, sh** happens, thinks that if we were somehow so out of the loop that we drove to a cancelled session, we’d just drive home, and the world wouldn’t end!
A slippery slope to silence
It has been a few weeks since I silenced WhatsApp and Signal and honestly, it has been bliss! I’ve enjoyed the lack of notifications so much that I have started limiting other notifications too. I’ve turned off Instagram notifications (which apparently leads to way less time scrolling through pointlessly!), Facebook notifications, and even started muting my phone when I am trying to concentrate on a project.
Predictably, although it feels counter to what we’re told, there have been no negative consequences. Seriously, none at all. I am driven less crazy, spend my time more productively as my focus isn’t broken, and as of yet, I haven’t missed a single message that wasn’t just as useful when I decided to manually check it rather than when external forces decided I should know.
Just say no
The average US smartphone user receives 46 app push notifications per day, according to Business of Apps, and frankly, it’s hard to believe it is radically different anywhere else in the developed world. Even if these are grouped (as notifications invariably are – who else knows someone who writes a line and hits return, over and over again?!) that is likely 9 or 10 interruptions a day.
The University of California Irving studied the effects of interruptions and discovered it takes a whopping 23 minutes and 15 seconds on average to get back to the task with full concentration. Take a minute to let that sink in and think about the ramifications on your productivity and your sanity.
It’s crazy, right? Notifications are a micro habit that we believe helps us to stay up to date, but they are actually holding us back. So, my challenge to you! This week, choose one app that drives you nuts and mute it for a week. This one week will help you build some confidence and then, you can go for that magical “never” button and mute another for a week. Set yourself a calendar reminder (if the notifications may be important) and check in when it makes sense to. It’s time to say no to constant interruptions!
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