Push off [Rerun Sunday]

[I’ve already forgotten where I first read this tip — and since my efforts to backtrack to it by googling around are only helping me find dozens of seemingly independent versions of the same advice, I’m not going to worry as much as I might about a hat-tip the “original” source here. I send apologies into the ether for whomever actually deserves credit (in my world, anyway) for suggesting this idea as a productivity booster.]

The tip itself seems deceptively simple: wherever you can do so — your phone, your laptop, your tablet — turn push notifications off. Don’t think of them as helpful attention-getters. Think of them as interruptions from whatever it is that you actually need to be doing at any given time. It’s only been a few days, so I may be singing a different tune in another week or three, but I’m liking the general effect so far. Still, this has been both easier and harder than I’d imagined it would be.

It’s been easier insofar as I don’t actively miss most of the “real time” notifications I’d been used to. For example, I’ve recently discovered Letterpress, which is a delightfully addictive word/strategy game (iDevices only, I’m afraid) . . . but I also don’t really need an addictive game sucking up my time and attention. And, before I turned its push notifications off, it was easy to find myself pulled into it at random moments, just because the little chime on my phone went off to let me know that it was now my turn to play again. I haven’t given the game up, mind you. But now it gets relegated to those moments when I’m between tasks, and I actively seek it out.

It’s been harder, though, since I’m starting to discover just how many apps, programs, and so on I had set (or, just as often, were set by default) to grab my attention whenever something “important” happened. Several times already, I have thought I’d managed to turn off all the things I thought I needed to turn off . . . only to suddenly hear a beep or a chime or a buzzer from something I’d forgotten about. Slowly, though, I think I’m chasing all these stray notifications down.

To be sure, there are a few push notifications I haven’t quite managed to let go of completely. Email and text messages are the big ones . . . though I’m trying to find ways to screen those more productively. I get a lot of email (managing a sizable listserv will do that), but precious little of it is actually so time-sensitive that I need to deal with it within seconds (or even hours) of its arrival. What I need to do is to figure out a set of filters that will trigger the relevant chimes and tones when important email comes through, while letting the rest of it pile up so that I can deal with it when I’m done dealing with other, more immediately pressing tasks.

(Oh, and yes, of course, your email messages are always going to get filtered through as “Vitally Important.” No, no. Sorry. Not you. I meant the reader two screens to your left. Yes, you. Your messages will never get the silent treatment from me.)

You can find a brief explanation of “Rerun Sunday” here.

The post above originally appeared on 14 January 2013.

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