Has anyone ever counted how many times per day our real life gets interrupted by the virtual (i.e. the internet and everything) one?
Consider this: I live in a small town in an island in Greece. While I’m having a coffee with friends, talking about stuff, my phone’s notification light blinks. Without further thought, I pick it up to check and I see is that someone across the world has uploaded a new youtube video. Do I need this? Am I going to act on that notification at that moment? For about 90% of my day no. Instead, I’ll propably watch it when I’m in front of my PC and don’t have anything better to do.
(What’s more amusing is that I would get 2 of those at the same time. Both the youtube app and youtube via email would notify me at the same time for the same video…)
This is very easy to disable, and you really never notice it’s gone. Youtube is one of those “things” that can wait for you. Any video uploaded will still be there when you want to watch it.
Same goes for pretty much any notification that says “someone did something on a site, come check it out”. If that someone hasn’t targeted you and just you with that action, you can safely ignore it. But these cases are the easy ones.
In cases when it’s expected from you to act on something you can’t disable them. A phone call might be a distraction, but it might also be an emergency. Phone calls are the other end of the spectrum and in most cases can’t be turned off. But anything else is in between, and can be managed/disabled.
SMS and IM’s can also be put on hold, after you inform your peers that you might not respond on the spot.
So what I’ve done is this:
*Disable the notification led on my phone for everything except phone calls. If it’s not blinking then there’s no real reason to pick it up and turn it on. It’s left on it’s own for most of the day. I check it when I can.
*Disable email and IM’s notifications on the work PC. Both are running all the time, but in separate workspaces from my main work. I check them when I can. There’s nothing worse than trying to work and see a blinking icon on the bottom corner of the screen. 90% percent of the time it can be ignored. If it’s urgent someone will call.
In essence this whole thing really boils down to distractions, and how to prevent a least some of them. Having countless beeps/leds around the day going off is not something I can handle anymore. I don’t use Facebook and can’t really understand who people are ok with their phones going beep every five minutes.
It’s an easy switch, really for most stuff. I have most of the things I want to check in RSS feeds. Even a few twitter streams. I read them on a Sunday morning when things are slow. If there are new stuff on weekdays, they will wait until the next Sunday.