You’ve finally managed to focus and start working on that important project you’ve been postponing for a while. Everything is going well, your thoughts flow effortlessly, your progress is visible and you feel good about your work. Suddenly, your phone screen lights up — DING! Your best friend has texted you, asking you if you have any plans for dinner tonight. Your mind starts wandering, you’re trying to remember if you already have plans with someone else. Your emotions change, you feel happy to hear from your friend. You may even start feeling a bit hungry and begin to think of all the good restaurants that you recently tried. Are you in the mood for Italian or Mexican? Or maybe you should just stick to your diet …
All of these thoughts and this mind wandering represent a cognitive shift, which is activated even before you reply to your friend’s text. You forgot all about your project and you have this urge to reply to your friend as soon as possible.
That cognitive shift — that you didn’t even realize was happening — is incredibly costly. Studies (http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/23146/too-many-interruptions-work.aspx?version=print) show that on average you’ll lose 23 minutes to get back on track — from one text notification. We’ve gotten so overstimulated by notifications that we don’t even notice them. But we actually receive an alarming number. Some research shows that people receive an average of 63 phone notifications a day. Just think about that for a minute. That is a lot of wasted time.
The negative impact these interruptions have on our performance is very significant — even if we just notice the notification, without touching our mobile device, especially if we’re working on an attention-demanding task. Merely seeing a notification has the same detrimental impact on our task performance as actively interacting with the device, either for calling or texting someone.
As business owners, we can probably all relate to that “SQUIRREL?!” attention span at times. Did you know that phone notifications have even been shown to correlate with ADHD-like symptoms? In two groups of people who were studied, one group was asked to keep their phone alerts on for one week, and the other group was asked to keep the alerts off, and to keep their phones put away. The differences between the two groups was significant. The group that had their notification settings on presented higher hyperactivity and inattention behavior, which in turn was associated not only with lower productivity but also with lower psychological well-being overall. The authors of this study even suggest that a quick way to increase productivity and psychological well-being is to simply keep phone notifications turned off!
Running your own business can sometimes be a very solitary experience. Especially when you work from home like I do. Studies show that we are so receptive to notifications because they make us feel more connected to other people, especially when we get text messages and social network updates. The same study showed we tend to feel a social pressure to reply as soon as possible and, indeed, most of the notifications are “typically viewed within minutes”. Unfortunately, the same study showed that this urge for availability comes at a cost, which is that “an increasing number of notifications was associated with an increase in negative emotions”. It’s true — getting interrupted all the time bums you out 🙂
Yikes, losing productive time and feeling worse? It’s time to tame those notifications! Here’s how:
On an iPhone, go to Settings > Notifications.
Scroll down through the list of apps and see which notifications are turned on for each app. I have notifications turned off for the majority of apps. I don’t like to have to go and check each individual app so I do leave notifications on for text messages, reminders, Messenger, etc. However, I minimize the interruptions by putting my phone on “do not disturb” mode during the day so I can focus.
Then I check in when I’m ready for a break to see what I missed.
I use the Notifications Centre as the one place to check them instead of having to go to each app.
By swiping down from the top of any screen, my Notifications screen pops up listing everything I need to respond to … when I’m ready.
We’ve all learned that grocery stores put the milk at the back of the store to make you walk past all the tempting items. If you wanted to spend less money at the store you had to do things like have a shopping list and avoid certain aisles. Similarly, we have to understand that today, technology companies are doing everything they can to persuade us to spend more time in our phones — because the more time we spend there, the more money they make. So if we want to spend less time getting distracted by technology and more time getting stuff done we have to come up with tricks to keep from getting sucked into wasting our time.
By taking control of your technology and turning off your notifications so you aren’t interrupted constantly through the day you’ll get so much more done you’ll feel like you’ve got 36 hours in a day.
Are you willing to stop those distracting notifications? Comment below.
My biggest regret in life is not spending more time with my son when he was little because I was overworking. Today I help digital entrepreneurs break through their resistance to change and tame their tech habits so they can take back control of their day, focus on what really matters and have more time to spend with the ones who matter most. I do this through my free trainings, online group programs, and personalized coaching sessions. Learn More >>