Getting Away from Notification Hell

Back in my college days, my imagination of software development was mostly people sitting in isolated cubicles and getting the work done. In other words, it wouldn't involve a lot of interaction with other people. As an introvert, I felt that is the perfect job I want to get into. After a couple of years, there I was realizing it is not the case for all aspects of software development.

In this day and age of Remote Work (Thanks to Corona Virus!) all of the official communication is done through apps like Slack, MS Teams, Discord, etc. Be it an invite to a meeting, a message on a channel, or a direct message, the notifications keep coming. Every time you get a notification, you are likely to be distracted from your current workflow.

If you are a person who wants to keep 0 unread messages or emails (like me), you are likely to get anxious about the number of notifications you have. The plethora of notifications doesn't end there, with 100s of apps present on everyone's phones, there's a lot of promotional and updates sent every hour. Every time one switches context to address a message or mail, the focus is lost and it is very hard to get back to the same zone of working for a long time.

How to deal with this?

1. Turn off all the notifications

Obviously. But it is not feasible to turn off all the notifications forever. Depending on the type of job you do, you would be able to take a break from notification for a certain time. This allows having a predefined "focus time" to work on a task. Blocking your calendar at specific times of the day to focus on a particular task will also help in communicating with your teammates about when you don't want to be disturbed.

2. Disable Notifications Permanently on Certain Apps

Not every app on your phone sends you useful notifications. You can still use the app without being notified about some random thing that the app is offering to pull you back into using that app. In these cases, you could just disable those apps from sending notifications permanently. This has helped me to not get into a loop of opening the apps and closing them for no reason. I have also gone a step further and disabled the notification count that shows on the app itself.

3. Setting Priority

If you are working remotely and you need to be alerted for some type of message that comes along, then disabling notification for a couple of hours wouldn't be a good idea. In these types of situations, you could also ways use the notification settings on the particular app to decide what is priory and what is not. For Example, Slack allows customizing the notification on a per-channel basis. You could set it to send the notification only when someone mentions you in a message. There are also apps or inbuilt features on Smart Phones that allow you to group the apps as Work or Home. In this way, you could have a different notification setting for each group.

4. Customize Notification Sound

If you are an anxious person and you tend to open the notification immediately, then you might want to set a custom sound for the apps depending on how early you want to open it. This could help in deciding whether to pick up the phone or not since you already know which type of notification you are getting.

Very Effective Tip: Stay Off the Internet!

Further Reading

  1. Notifications Cause Us Anxiety, But We Can Fix It
  2. Context switching costs more than we give it credit for