Conquer Distraction:

Block Out Notifications NOW!


Written by Luis Marquez

I remember when I got my first cell phone. I was in middle school and my mission was to get all of my friend's phone numbers. It transformed my reality to where we could talk and text nonstop. Anytime my phone would vibrate, I would get so excited to see what the message was. Is it my best friend? Is it my crush? Is it the friend I’m fighting with? I don't know, but I better go check! Even today, over a decade later, I still get that jolt of excitement when my phone goes off. But today with the development of smartphones: the virtual ecosystems of our lives have expanded to get calendar reminders, email notifications, social media status updates, and so much more depending on the setup. There are so many notifications fighting for my attention that honestly, I’m pretty exhausted.


Our phones are an extension of our lives and as time marches on, they become more and more integrated into the systems that manage our world. In order to thrive in contemporary society, access to a smartphone and the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity. With this powerful piece of technology comes responsibility and the need for wisdom in how we manage using it. This technology has only been a part of everyday society for about the last 10 years starting with the original iPhone in 2007. So we are still collectively learning the best way to live with these devices.

One of the biggest problems we face is the compulsion to look at our phones, whether that’s to check social media, watch videos, or play games. Our phones can become a vortex for our attention, pulling us away from the present into virtual reality. And in virtual reality, the construct of time falls away. We jump from one thing to next, and before we know it we’ve spent 15 minutes scrolling. On average, American consumers now check their smartphones an average of 52 times each day, according to the U.S. edition of the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey. Throughout the day we’ll look through our phones and those 15-minute sessions can compound into hours of screen time. Take a macroscopic lens, and throughout the year those hours can compound into days of surfing through our phones aimlessly. And over time these compulsive habits can bring us towards feelings of anxiety, restlessness, poor focus, and more. Living in this state can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. But thankfully there is a remedy: we can rearrange our virtual ecosystem.

Our phones can be such an all in one device that the boundaries between our professional lives and leisure can get messy. This reduces our capacity to stay in one mindset and thereby working against our ability to focus. When we get a notification about an important work email and also get a text from a friend, our mind gets mixed signals about where to engage. So let’s implement habits and measures to work in our favor. 

Things to Try

Disable badges, sounds, and banners

These are the sensory beacons that call away from our attention. Mute them to allude them.

Set certain conversations to mute

Do you have that one friend who sends you 200 videos and memes a day? Mute their notifications so you’re not being bombarded with cat videos throughout the day. Save them for later after when you’re on a break, waiting for something, or after your work is done for the day.

Switch on Do Not Disturb or turn off notifications during a time block

There are specific moments we need to engage all of our focus. So schedule for times where you block out ALL notifications, productive or not, to really get the maximum effect of your attention.


Set Screen Time Restrictions

Our phones now come equipped to tell you where your spending your time and for how long. Have it notify you when you’ve spent 1hr on an app you’d like to cut back on. What we can measure, we can change.

When we can restrict distractions through limiting notifications and reorganizing our virtual ecosystem, the reigns of power come back to us. Our environment and tools can be tweaked to work in our favor, for our improvement.

Secondly, rearranging the order of apps is another powerful strategy to implement. Reflexively we have become used to our set up and know exactly where to tap to find our fix of entertainment. Kind of like if you drive by your favorite donut shop every day, your chances of going in and eating donuts increase: the same goes with our apps. When we pass by them, like a siren they call us and we have to make a decision of whether or not to engage. Over the course of the day, our ability to say no will deplete and we’ll find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole. Disrupt this habit and avoid temptation by moving our leisure apps out of sight and out of the way.

More Things to Try

Remove them from The Dock

The Dock is the closest place for our thumbs to easily reach any app. Remove the apps you would like to use less from here and move in the ones you’d like to use more.

Moving them from the Home Screen to the second or third screen

We spend most of our time on the home screen because that’s usually where we keep our most-used apps. Increase the amount of time and work it takes to reach these apps and make it difficult for yourself to engage with them.

Switch on Do Not Disturb or turn off notifications during a time block

There are specific moments we need to engage all of our focus. So schedule for times where you block out ALL notifications, productive or not, to really get the maximum effect of your attention.


Set Screen Time Restrictions

Our phones now come equipped to tell you where your spending your time and for how long. Have it notify you when you’ve spent 1hr on an app you’d like to cut back on. What we can measure, we can change.

Whether we find ourselves shopping too much on Amazon, browsing through Postmates for a snack, or scrolling through Instagram, we can take our attention back. Let’s take the same kind of care we take when we’re arranging a home or our offices and make sure our virtual workspaces are optimized for our needs. When we set boundaries, we can reconnect with ourselves, we can get valuable work done, we can have fun, or even give ourselves a break from the world. All we have to do is set our intentions and align our environment towards our desires.

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