Are Your Notifications Productive?
No doubt, modern technology drives gains in our productivity. Today’s specialized programs and targeted applications enable us to do more, keep track of more, and collaborate and connect more. Notifications are the primary language smart technology uses to communicate with its users (us!). Your meeting with Ben is tomorrow. The deadline for submitting the proposal is next week. Here’s an article/post/game that might interest you. You’ve got mail. Betty left you a message. While well-intentioned, this communication must be managed to ensure it doesn’t become a distraction. Let’s talk about the ways we can manage our tech notifications to ensure the dialogue remains productive.
Set Boundaries With Focus Time
Nancy and I encourage our clients to engage in time blocking to optimize their output. When they’ve blocked off time to work on a project, we advise them to eliminate distractions. Notifications can be real distractions when we’re focused on a task. Thankfully, most operating systems — and many programs — now offer a focus time setting. Turns out, smart tech architects and engineers fully appreciate the need to eliminate distractions.
Most focus time modules allow the user to select which notifications they choose to silence. If you’re blocking off time to process emails, you don’t need to be notified when an email comes in. The same goes for social media. The notifications will still be there when you’re finished with your focused activity. There may be times when you want or need to be notified of a text or call or collaborative task completion. When you do, you can change the focus time setting for the notification(s) you’re seeking to monitor.
Optimize Your Calendar Notifications
Even during focused times, I keep my calendar alerts active. I find calendar reminders helpful when I could get lost in deep thought. Most calendars have default alert timing built in, but I personalize mine when I make a calendar entry. For example, let’s say I’m putting a due date for submitting a proposal on my calendar. I’ll schedule an alert for two days prior to ensure I have plenty of time to tie up loose ends. This strategy works for managing teenagers in school, too! You can put their exams on the calendar, then schedule alerts for a few days before. With the alert reminder, you can check in with the teen to confirm they’re preparing for their exam.
Here are other ways you might set your calendar notifications to optimize your productivity:
- alert when I need to depart for a meeting/appointment
- remind me the evening before an event so I can plan out my clothing for the following day
- notify me each Tuesday of a standing Wednesday obligation/commitment I’ll need to prep for
The key is to think through what will support you best, then direct the technology accordingly.
Some Notifications are Simply Chatter
Social media and online games have gotten in on the technology conversation. Facebook is happy to tell you when a friend makes a post. Wordle will remind you there’s new fun to be had. I don’t have anything against social media and I don’t demonize online gaming. But I go to my social media apps when I’ve planned time to do so, and I play Wordle when I have downtime.
Some notifications simply aren’t necessary. If Facebook tells me a friend has made a post, this communication is simply an interruption. I’ll review my friend’s post when I open my Facebook app. And for me, the restaurant apps fall into a similar category. I don’t need to know that Smoothie King has a special going. If I decide I want a smoothie, I’ll check the app for any specials or rewards before I place an order.
Be Considerate of Others
One final angle to cover on notifications: audible alerts. I bet you can name at least one person you know who has a distinctive ring or text alert tone. I also bet you are past considering this cute. While audible notifications can be helpful, they’re often a distraction to those in your orbit. Where possible, use vibration alerts when you’re working in a public setting. Everyone around you will thank you for this.
We Control the Dialogue
Tech dialogue is a good thing when we control the narrative. Ensure your technology notifications remain productive. Eliminate distractions by using focus time features. Give yourself the advanced notice you need by customizing the timing of your calendar alerts. Eliminate the notifications that serve no real purpose. And, lastly, keep in mind that your audible notifications can be a distraction to others. Save the catchy ringtone for home.
Sara Genrich & Nancy Kruschke, founders of Productivity Training Academy, came together with the vision of creating practical, results-driven online on-demand courses for time management, productivity and technology training. With over 50 years of combined productivity experience, Sara and Nancy’s knowledge, skills and talents illuminate valuable paths to business gain, serving as an effective catalyst for positive change.