Turn off your push notifications

Smartphones are distracting. You know that. Whether you are already consciously trying to reduce the time spent on your phone each day or not, there’s a growing awareness amongst us that they tend to get in the way and distract us from the stuff we really should be doing.

Let’s assume for a minute that, like me, you want to find more time to be productive and succumb to phone-distraction a little less often. There is one single action you must take first which will have the biggest impact on your journey.

Turn off your push notifications!

Push notifications are sent by app developers to your phone to notify you of ‘something’ they have decided you need to know about. Right now. The problem is that the moment we give permission for an app to send us notifications, we hand over control of part of our lives to someone we have never met and knows very little about us.

Here’s a random snapshot of push notifications that showed up on my phone between 6am and 8am last Monday:

“Rediscover this day – Look back at 2 Jul 2017″

“Deal now on your Wish List item”

“1 hour until our high £8000 game”

It’s as if these apps are all shouting at me. Like a pushy sales person trying to get me to use his product. Getting in my face before I’ve even had my morning coffee! And of course, this continues all day, every day.

How do we stand any chance of remaining focused when our phones are constantly begging for our attention?

You can be in the middle of writing that important email you’ve been putting off when suddenly your phone lights up with a notification. You reach over to pick it up – it’s a reminder from your favourite shopping app that their sale is ending soon. You are not interested but guess what, before you know it you’ve opened Facebook and are mindlessly scrolling down your timeline. That email can wait.

Even worse, you could be sitting opposite a friend, engaging in conversation, when your phone lights up on the table between you both. Your attention drifts from the conversation and you choose to focus your energy on something far less meaningful.

If you leave push notifications on you are allowing your phone to use you, whenever it wants. It should always be the other way round.

I turned my notifications off last week and it’s made a huge difference. Now I use my phone when I want to, not when an app developer decides I should. I check my emails a couple of times a day, I catch up on Whatsapp group chats when I have the time, I open Twitter when I have something to share.

My phone is my tool again, not the other way round.

I urge everyone to try it. You’ll probably want to leave phone calls and text messages on but everything else can go! Don’t be afraid. 10 years ago no one knew what a push notification was. You can live without them. Like, really actually live.