Personal Development

Notification Slaves

That’s exactly what the modern society is – a bunch of Notification slaves. Addicts.

At the end of 2018 we’ve been in London for 6 weeks during the pre-Christmas season. One day I had lunch with an old friend you confessed to me that he deleted the Facebook and Instagram apps off his phone. I felt like I didn’t take too much notice of it and the topic soon changed to something else. However, that evening I actually deleted Instagram and Facebook off my phone, too.

I have to admit that during a weak moment in 2019 I re-installed Facebook for a few weeks or even months. However, it’s off my phone once again since at least half a year or so.

That already eliminated dozens of useless notifications from my phone on a day to day basis as well as countless hours of daily scrolling of the Facebook Newsfeed and the Instagram feed.

But that wasn’t enough for me a few months ago.

So I went back into my phone settings and further limited a lot of things in my phone. I limited some notification settings, made my phone automatically go into Do-Not-Disturb mode every evening from 9pm until 9am the following morning. I also made the screen change colours to the yellowish night mode during those hours.

The last few weeks I was still not happy about the amount of notifications I received and the screen time I have every day.

So today I went back into the phone settings. In particular the notification settings.

I disabled the notifications from every single app, except:

  • financial service apps, i.e. banking apps
  • Phone, i.e. to receive phone calls
  • Messages, i.e. good old fashioned text messages
  • transportation apps, i.e. Uber, Bolt, Cabify,…

I already deleted a lot of useless apps in the past, but now I also disabled the most unproductive and damaging part of the remaining apps – their possibility to interrupt my day at a time of their choosing rather than when I need them.

I kept notifications on for transportation apps such as Uber as I often order a car and then forget to get outside in time. Those apps generally only use their notification feature whenever something important happens – like the driver arriving at my address.

I hardly ever receive any phone calls so that’s not a big deal, plus after all a phone is sort of made for calls, so I didn’t want to disable those notifications. Yet.

My banks and financial apps normally only send important notifications such as money coming in or going out, security warnings or login confirmations. So I am more than happy to receive those.

Finally, keeping notifications on for Messages is my master piece. I completely disabled all notifications for WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The two most unproductive and interrupting apps I have on my phone. Now I only see, message and reply to people on my own time.

However, with a wife and two kids I still need to be reachable 24/7. That’s why my wife now knows that whenever she wants to send me something that can wait she will use Facebook Messenger. However, if it’s something time-critical she simply sends me a text message and she can rest assured that I see it within minutes.

In the end it comes back to the question how critical is it for me to see this piece of information right NOW?

For example, most people anyway check their Gmail account on a regular basis. How important is it for me that I see a new incoming email on my phone exactly when it comes in? I personally prefer to reply from my laptop to emails that are longer than 1-2 sentences. So what’s the advantage of having the Gmail notification on my phone?

I’ve only gone that hardcore on the notification ban today, so I will need to see how this works out in the long term, but I feel very positive about this change so far.

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