How many times do you look at your phone in a day? Seriously, how many times? There’s various statistics out there that you see in newspaper headlines etc, generally stating that the average person looks at their phone somewhere around 55 to 60 times per day. That’s a lot. If you sleep for 8 hours, then that’s 3 to 4 times per hour. That’s once every 15 minutes. Why? In this article we’ll look at if you should turn off push notifications?
Why are you looking at your phone? Is it a phone call – probably not, but you’ve got a good excuse to look at your phone if someone’s calling to talk. Maybe it’s a text message or WhatsApp message. Maybe you’re looking at the map to get somewhere or googling some information for your work. Arguably these are all reasonable reasons for looking at your phone. However, what if you’re looking at your phone every time you get a push notification.
Most apps send you a push notification whenever something happens on the app. For example, Instagram will give you a push notification whenever someone likes one of your posts. If you’ve recently added a new photo, this could mean you’re constantly being bombarded with push notifications through the day. Even worse, if you’re phones not on silent, you’ll get a beep or a ring from your phone every time this notification comes through. Overtime, you begin to associate the push notification with a like or a new bit of information. The phone pings, the push notification pops-up on the screen, and you quickly go looking to see who sent you a message or who liked your photo.
This is a constant drain on your attention. This is an interruption. If you allow yourself to be disrupted by your phone regularly (every 15 minutes on average according to the statistic at the start of this article) then you’re never going to reach your deepest levels of focus. You’re never going to get into deep flow or flow state. Instead, your attention span will become shorted, and you’ll become addicted to the regular dose of notifications that your apps ration out to you over the day.
In addition, some apps even use push notifications to advertise to you. How many times have you had a notification from YouTube recommending a video, or from Amazon recommending a product. By enabling push notifications your giving advertisers a direct portal to your attention. Your attention is worth more than that.
How Do You Stop Being Controlled By Your Phone?
At Acropolis Wisdom we’re big believers in minimising the number of push notifications you receive each day. We turn off the sound on ALL notifications to avoid being distracted. Some notifications are of course useful, like those telling you that you have a new message. However, most notifications aren’t important. It doesn’t matter if you deal with them now or later. Most, you don’t even need to deal with at all.
For example, imagine how much more time you’d have and how much more focused you would be if you looked at Instagram once per day (except for direct message conversations which might require multiple engagements). Rather than looking at each like as it is given to your post, wait until the end of the day and have a look then. You still see who liked your post. But you’ve decided to look on your own terms.
That’s the main take away from this article. Engage with the apps on your phone on your own terms. Don’t let an app and a push notification dictate to you when you should look. Your focus and attention is worth too much for that. Instead, make a conscious decision when to look at your apps and messages. Limit this to once or twice or a limited number of times per day.
To put this into action, you will need to turn-off push notifications on all your apps. You can do this on most apps by going into the settings and navigating to notifications. You will normally be given an option on which notifications you turn off and which you leave in place. There’s some that you might want to keep on as they flag up important things. However, you don’t need the BBC News App to pipe the latest news article to you every few hours. Turn it off and get your attention back.
What we advocate here is a general point which hopefully is intuitive and makes sense without us providing too much evidence or science. However, there is science behind this, which makes it even scarier. There is research out there which looks at the impact of the red notification dot and notifications etc. on your attention span, and key hormone levels like dopamine and serotonin. We’ll write about these another time. For now, turn off your notifications!