From watches that go off every time you get a new text message, email, weather alert, etc. etc. to Instagram feeds you can’t stop browsing through all the frickin’ time. Sure, being so connected has a wealth of advantages but it also has its cons, most of which have a direct effect on our mental health and productivity.
Staring at our devices may be pleasurable in the moment, but this pleasurable behaviour is extremely addictive because of the dopamine hit that keeps us coming back for more – refreshing our feeds like a gambling addict pulling the lever on a fruit machine.
And more often than not it’s our notifications that’s to blame.
How many times have you been in the zone, you know, truly getting sh*t done and all of a sudden your phone pings, next thing you know a whole 30 minutes to an hour has gone by!
We’ve been knocked completely out of our train of thought… “what was I even doing before that?” we ask ourselves.
Or how many times have you unlocked your phone for a particular reason only to be distracted by one of those little red dots above an app on your homescreen… Now you’re down an Instagram hole… “Sh*t!”
According to one small study conducted in 2014, mobile phone users receive an average of 63.5 alerts every day, with most viewed within a mere minute – whether the phone is on silent or not. A 2016 study by Deloitte found that people check their phone, on average, 47 times a day – often in response to alerts.
Now this is the part where I ask you to check your screen time… it will shock you.
Regardless of what the notifications say or if you opted to receive them, the cumulative effect can be overwhelming. Over the course of a day, this amount of notifications is nothing but disruptive and distracting, affecting your focus and overall performance.
It is that sense of being derailed that is increasingly leading more and more people to turn off all (or nearly all) of their notifications for good.
One iPhone user mentions that pop-ups were having a negative effect on her peace of mind and productivity, so she took action. “I turned everything off, and I felt better for it. That was something I could control: the distraction coming from my phone.”
If however, you use social media as a key marketing tool in your business, (I see you social media managers) Then I recommend managing your pop-ups by only enabling badge notifications (a red dot on the icon on the home screen, one of the least obtrusive options) for the key apps you use and need to be responsive to.
Therefore you can allocate different time slots throughout the day in which you can take 5 or 10 minutes to check up on these, making you less inclined to waste hours passively scrolling Facebook or Instagram after being diverted there by an alert.
Even the biggest names in tech are starting to realise how detrimental these distractions are on our productivity and mental well-being. Which is why in 2018 Apple introduced features to grant users more control over how and when they were interrupted, such as a “do not disturb” function to help them “stay in the moment”.
Google has now also rolled out similar “digital wellbeing” features for Android. Even Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, owned up to having “gutted” his own notifications, and encouraged all iPhone users to do the same. “It’s not something that is adding value to my life, or is making me a better person.”
If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix yet then what on earth have you been doing?… but seriously, watch it and you’ll need no further convincing.
The Social Dilemma tells us that many social media companies succeed by capturing as much of our attention as they can, then selling that attention to the highest bidders. As the saying goes, if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.
Ultimately though, we must learn to navigate the increasingly hyper-augmented socially connected world that we live in carefully. There is true value in reclaiming control of our relationship with our devices.
So, I challenge you all to have a Notification Detox for 2 weeks. Just turn them all off and see if you feel any different by the end of the 2 weeks.
I bet your screen time will half and your productivity will double.
You’ll also feel amazing.