How to be Productive in a Notification Filled World

The ease digital technology has brought about in the past few decades has been immensely helpful to communication and creativity both in and out of the workplace. A study by O2 Business & CEBR showed that productivity in the workplace has increased by 84 percent in the course of the last 40 years due to advancements in digital technology. Although, it has more positive effects than negative, ironically, this same technology in recent times seems to be reducing productivity by way of notifications. Stats show that people receive around 32-85 push notifications per day, from a range of sources. These numbers are quite a lot, considering that the attention span of a human being is now about 8 seconds compared to the year 2000, when it was 12 seconds just around the time the mobile revolution began.

Identify the distinction


The first step to solving a problem they say, is identifying that problem. While some notifications can be pieces of crucial or important information, most times, they are just irrelevant distractions. They do not always need to be attended to depending what category they fall. So you need to know what notifications to allow.

Managing notifications

Separating the wheat from the chaff might come at a price. As humans, we’re easily distracted and this may sound intuitive, but many people (including myself) might not realize just how beneficial switching from vibrate to silent can be. A new piece of research, “The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Phone Notification,” reports that the reverberations of new notifications can distract us, even when we don’t look over to see what they could be. I personally do not like vibrations, so if you fall in that category, you may consider measures to manage notifications like turning off certain app notifications in device settings, especially those from social media apps.

Putting your phone on silent and turning your phone screen down or on airplane mode while at work may seem extreme but will improve your focus greatly. There are applications these days such as Freedom and Focus that you can set to lock you out of certain other apps on your devices for a period of time, so if you were tempted to use your devices, you couldn’t get in.

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Set a Time budget

In addition, you need to set a time budget. Just as you plan to spend your money, plan to spend your time too. You should allocate time for most things, even outside work. If you feel you must attend to personal or social things as a matter of urgency during work, you can assign about 10-15 minutes every 3 hours to check in. This would give a long stretch of focus before taking time off. You also have lunch breaks, although table manners should be adhered to, food breaks are also time to relax and chat a little bit, take your mind off work stress. In all, planning always increases productivity because your goals and objectives are laid out clearly with specific set deadlines or time limits.

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Ignore the urge to multitask

Truly, task and time management can be difficult to fully grasp. It is normal to think that you can do more at once but avoid the urge to multitask. Multitasking is a true time waster. Doing many things at once doesn’t accelerate work process because, at the end of the day, you realise you were unable to finish even one task. With the amount of time you spent doing 6/7 things at once and leaving them all unfinished, you could have completed 2 tasks and checked them off the to-do list. The human brain has only so much processing capacity so giving it too much to do at once will only slow it down.

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There are a few ways to fix this problem. The most important one is self-control: Ignore the temptation to constantly check your email or look at Facebook. Make a list of things to do, take items one after another to work on, and try to ignore everything else while you’re doing it. Also, don’t forget, turning off your phone or application notifications at other times helps.

Change Your Environment

Penultimately, asides notifications gotten from smart devices, there are human notifications too which can be distractions as well. Some people have overly chatty colleagues who just don’t know when to quit, especially ones that share an office with you or are just next door. Many people like me, cannot work in such noisy environments because noise distractions slow down thinking process. You may need to speak with your superior about these inconveniences and maybe negotiate getting a corner office away from the general population. If you’re one that can work with music, you should consider using your earphones to block out most the noise.

Notifications are here to stay and the world will continue to be one filled with them as well as distractions. It is important that we not only embrace the changes as they come but also put them to good use. We should do our best to maximize our input and output with the resources and tools made available to us.

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