The single biggest way to get more focused and productive

As I prepared my breakfast this morning it dawned on me that technology's obsession with notifications isn't restricted to devices like the Apple Watch. These days everything needs to tell you when it's done. Our toaster beeps when it has finished its cycle. So does the dishwasher. And the washing machine. Even my electric toothbrush alerts me to the fact that I've been brushing for the optimum amount of time.

It's only a matter of time before all these notifications get rerouted to Silicon Valley and back to my phone or (if I had one) watch.

It was this realisation that caused me to revisit the notifications on my phone.

I've always been one to turn off new email alerts on all my devices and computers. I've never believed that email should be treated as an urgent form of communication. If someone needs me now they can call me or text me. And even then I'll respond as soon as I can provided it doesn't involve interrupting an interaction with someone else. (Why is it that an incoming phone call always takes priority over a person who is already in the room?)

It beats me why email alerts are 'on' by default in the first place.

However, when I looked at my phone afresh I realised that various other notifications had snuck their way in to my life. Facebook alerts appeared on my 'home' screen – they were silent, but nevertheless they were there. Similarly with Twitter and LinkedIn.

I had even allowed a game to tell me that it was my turn by beeping at me, and a travel app to raise the alarm when a good airfare is available between Melbourne and Christchurch.

There were other less conspicuous prompts. Apps like Instagram or Stellar that weren't appearing on the home screen but nevertheless had little ego-massaging numbers on them – 'badges' – silently calling me to 'Open me now to see how many new likes you have!'.

All up, while being aware of the need to minimise distractions, I had still allowed over a dozen apps to poke at my brain either gently or more firmly whenever they liked. And all that before looking at my desktop computer and the various notifications on there.

And so the battle for my mind has begun afresh. In the notifications settings on my iPhone and iPad I'm ruthlessly turning off all notifications – included 'badges' – unless they are absolutely necessary. Which pretty much boils down to text messages, phone calls and reminders. I'm taking a similar path on my Mac.

Unfortunately I can't turn off the alarms on my whitegoods, but I can live with them. However, in all other respects I'm taking back control of my mind.

I strongly suggest you think about doing the same.

As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please add a comment below or contact me.

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