Every day, my phone fields over 2,000 notifications per day. The first time I realized this statistic was when Google launched Android P with a new feature called Digital Wellbeing, which is similar to Screen Time on iOS. Both features allow users to view how they spend their time on their smartphones on a per-app basis.
Digital Wellbeing on Android P also helped me realize that on my busiest day (usually Tuesdays for some reason) I received over 3,000 notifications a day. Distracting, right? With the new feature, I quickly began to understand where I spent most of my hours each day and began finding ways to correct it.
Android P launched last year and now I use an iPhone to complete most of my day to day tasks. Here are a few ways I minimize falling into the ‘digital rabbit hole’ many of us get lost in throughout the day.
1. Focus on One App at a Time
So I’m just going to jump right into my favorite productivity hack. Focusing on one app at a time is the best way to remain focused for an extended period of time. There was a time when apps were very simple, utilizing only a few key features.
At one point, apps like Instagram, and Facebook didn’t have intrusive messaging features. Fast forward and they function as fully fledged messaging apps, with YouTube and a number of entertainment apps gaining the ability to send notifications to remind you about trending videos.
I collaborate with and manage the Mint Team via a WhatsApp group chat. While collaborating with them and other organizations, I actively ignore every notification that pings me to focus on the task at hand.
This includes screening calls that aren’t urgent, avoiding emails that aren’t pressing and staying away from social apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. New notifications on our lock screen are often fighting for our attention — it takes practice to resist.
This also includes only responding to messages about work and other related topics. Save the ‘hey,’ ‘what’s up,’ and ‘wyd’ notifications for later.
2. Minimize Distractions
What really distracts you during your work day? For some of us, it could be food or competing ideas. For others, it could be anxiety or personal situation that you may find hard to ignore. The first step in this article is a great way to begin minimizing distractions in your day. Whether you’re working on a project that needs a ton of focus or simply need a relaxing space to explore your creative ideas.
Every time you notice you’ve been tugged away by a distraction, make a mental note and return to your work. Remembering that everything that isn’t the task at hand is a potential distraction. That’s where I start. This may also take some practice to master.
3. Tweak Your Notification Settings Often
Perhaps the most powerful way to avoid falling into a digital rabbit hole is by tweaking your phones notification settings — this is one of the ways I avoid unnecessary distractions and limit my time on social media.
Because I don’t care about who follows me on Instagram, who sends me a friend request on Facebook or who liked or commented on my most recent post, all of those notifications types are turned off.
I often post something and begin my day.
Actually, Facebook isn’t even allowed to notify me about anything unless I’ve received a direct message from a friend. After realizing how effective this was, I began blocking notifications from various apps that I would normally swipe away (and never read) throughout the day.
Tweaking my settings often has changed my life for the better.
4. Take Frequent ‘Focus’ Breaks
Take as many breaks as you need. Obviously, if you work in a high paced environment, you may have to be a little more skillful with the way you take breaks.
If you work at a cash register, serve as a counter agent or waitress, it may not be possible to take focus breaks. Remaining mindful of your current task and avoiding getting lost in thought while working is how you remain calm and focused throughout the day.
5. Silence Your Phone (Selectively)
Confession — my phone has been on silent since mid-December of 2018. When I’m expecting a call from a client or family member, I take it off of silent — briefly.
Once that call is over, I put it right back on silent to avoid being pinged all day and return to my schedule. I simply return missed calls accordingly in whatever sequence fits my needs for that day.
6. Tell Friends and Family What’s Up
This one is tricky, even for me. But being honest about your workload and the goals you’ve set for yourself with your family can go a long way. How many times have you told a family member or friend that you were extremely busy and it came off as an excuse to avoid them?
If your family and friends sense that you are you using your work to avoid them, it can become an issue and impact your relationship with them. I generally take time to carefully explain how I navigate notifications and phone interactions to stay on track with demanding projects and goals.
I also have dedicated times in the day (or week) where I respond to text messages and return phone calls.
If your family and friends keep guilt-tripping you about how busy you are after you’ve done the work explaining your demanding schedule, tough shit. Now get out there and slay your distractions, one task at a time — you got this!