Notifications are invasive. Some may give you timely, useful information such as traffic alerts but most others are an unwelcome interruption for me. According to some studies, it could take 25 minutes to refocus your attention to the task at hand after a distraction.

When I bought my iPad Mini in 2019, I decided to turn off all notifications to help me focus. No sounds, nothing in the Notification Center, and no red numeric badges to remind me of how many items needed my attention. This has helped me to focus more on reading books and in-depth articles.

Notifications on the iPhone are very easy to modify to suit your needs. I used the VIP feature to make sure I didn’t miss important emails from key senior managers. If they send me an email, I get an alert on my iPhone and Apple Watch. For all other emails, I just see the red numeric badge on the icon.

The recent documentary The Social Dilemma (Netflix) rings the alarm on notifications affecting our behavior. The developers of social media apps like Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, etc. are profiting off of their ability to manipulate users. They’ve designed their apps utilizing human psychology to create push notifications that are most likely to draw you back into their app. Once in the app, you’ll begin the infinite scroll as they feed you more content based on their algorithm which is continually refined with every tap of your finger.

I decided to change how I interact with my social media apps. First, I turned off all push notifications. What happens in Instagram stays in Instagram–unless I make the conscious decision to open the app. If I don’t think about it myself, then it’s not a priority. I set similar parameters for Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, and the few others I use. The Washington Post is my main news source, and I receive appropriate breaking news alerts. A few more ways to save time:

  • Review iPhone/iPad apps and delete any I haven’t used in a year.
  • Review notifications to see if the interruptions are warranted. If not, turn them off.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters that are never read.

As Lauren Cooper would say (see Catherine Tate Show), “not bovvered.”

BBC Red Nose Day with David Tennant & Catherine Tate