Get Focused: Turn Off All General Notifications

Get Focused

I recently created a video for YouTube talking about getting focused. The clip emphasizes getting focused through subtraction: eliminating physical objects from your life you don't care about, purging your digital content of old and stale information, and even purging your mind of thought loops and negative emotions that linger beyond their sell by date.

Here, I want to emphasize a simpler aspect of getting focused. Quite simply, turn off all notifications and allow yourself to zero in on what you care about most.

This is quite important in the modern world because new technology has mushroomed to the point where you could literally be distracted from minute to minute. This was not the case a few decades ago when there were only simple telephones located in your home and regular mail service that arrived once per day.

The great thing is that this is quite simple to implement. Let's list the distractions you can turn off.

  • First and foremost, turn off the notifications that ring every time you receive an email. Just turn it off. If you are worried about missing something, then choose to check your email more often. But don't scurry like a rat to his cheese every time the little email bell rings. You won't get a thing done.
  • Similarly, turn off text notifications. Again, feel free to proactively check your text feed if that's what it takes to ensure you are responding in a timely fashion.
  • Yes, for both of the above, if you are expecting a super time sensitive piece of information, feel free to turn on notifications for that period of time. But then turn them back off.
  • I have trained almost everyone in my life to email or text me rather than to call. How? I simply don't answer the phone when people call. I then respond to their voicemails via email. I, of course, make exceptions for those who call that I want to speak with on the phone. But my default for work-related communications is to flow people onto email. This way the communication happens when it is convenient for both parties.
  • I do keep my phone's ringer on and look at the phone when someone calls. This way I am quickly made aware if there is a real emergency. (People will always call in such a situation if they have your number.) When doing my most focused work, however, I often don’t have the phone in the room. It's just one less distraction. In general, I don't feel compelled to have my phone around at all times. This does depend on the nature of your profession.
  • Turn off push notifications from YouTube, Facebook, and all other applications. These companies make money by selling your attention. They want as much of your attention as possible. It's up to each of us to decide how much attention we want to spend on these platforms, but a minimum practice is to ensure that we are going out there and pulling the information when we find it convenient rather than having it pushed upon us daily.
  • Unsubscribe from email lists that you no longer find useful. For those emails that keep coming regardless, mark them as junk. However, it's good if you can get fully unsubscribed so that your email application isn't wasting time moving incoming messages into your junk folder.
  • When you get a new credit card, the company usually sends you a page explaining how they sell and share your information to third parties. Call the number on the page and ask to opt out of all this stuff--it will cut down on your physical junk mail (another type of notification if you think about it).

If the above seems in any way misanthropic, it's not! I love interacting with and communicating with people. The point here is to put your time and attention on what you care about, not on what commercial enterprises want. Big difference. If you implement this consistently, you will find you have a lot more free time, attention, and energy.

So what have I missed? What other notifications and interruptions can you turn off and move out of your life to free you up for what you care about? How else do you get focused?

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