The AAL Guide to Distracting Notifications, or how I reclaimed my sanity from electronic devices
Posted on February 6th, 2013
There isn’t a sound in the world that pisses me off more than a ringing phone, or a light that makes me angrier than a flashing red “voicemail” alert. If I were forty years older, I’d be an old lady who’d pretend to not understand how her answering machine worked.
As much as I love my gadgets, as much as I need them to be productive, I hate them, too. I hate them because if I know there is something outstanding — an email that needs a response, a call that needs to be returned, or even knowing it’s my Words with Friends turn — I am constitutionally incapable of focusing on work until I’ve written the email, made the call, or taken my turn in a game.
Maybe it’s OCD or an overexaggerated sense of duty. I don’t care, but notifications interrupt my flow. And when you are as easily distracted as I am, flow is golden.
I’ve turned off notifications. Nothing bounces or blinks when I get email; I check it when I feel like checking it or I have some free time or I’m standing in line. (In law practice, I would return calls and email during my least productive times of the day, right after lunch or very late afternoon. I covered up the red flashing voicemail light.)
My phone ringtone is Dona Nobis Pacem performed by Yo-Yo Ma (irony somewhat intentional), and it is so lovely and soft that half the time I don’t even notice it’s ringing — which is exactly how I want it. There are very few things that are so important that they need an answer right away.
When I’m working, I turn my phone over so that I won’t see the notifications of Instagram likes or text messages or DMs and @ replies on Twitter (my peripheral vision is astonishingly good, considering how myopic I am). But nothing notifies me when I have a new WWF move to make or a Facebook notification, not even a flash on my phone.
I check them when I check them.
In fact, the only alert sounds my phone makes are for messages from M and calendar items. I do live by iCal/Google Calendar, because they give me the power to forget and not worry about what’s coming up. I tell people I just go where my phone tells me to go. There is a “Pick up [Pea]” alert every weekday, and sometimes, it’s the only way I’d be aware of the time.
My life has become quieter and I am ever so much happier for it. So if it seems like I take a long time to get back to you, that’s the reason why. You may want to try it, if only for a week. The peace is amazing.