Even if you ignore the buzz and ping of the iPhone or Android notifications on your desk or in your pocket you’re passing up on productivity and losing concentration according to a new study that could have you re-thinking your notifications. Here’s what you need to know about this new research and what you can do about it.
The new study discovered that notifications severely impact your ability to focus and to complete tasks. Study authors warn, “Although these notifications are generally short in duration, they can prompt task-irrelevant thoughts, or mind wandering, which has been shown to damage task performance.”
In some ways we know that a smartphone notification can harm our ability to complete tasks, but the report found that even when you ignore the alert, the damage is done. The authors write;
“We found that cellular phone notifications alone significantly disrupted performance on an attention-demanding task, even when participants did not directly interact with a mobile device during the task.”
In a report on this paper, QZ shares that when users did not check their phones there was a major rise in the potential for mistakes. Max Nisen writes that users who did not check the notification were still, “three times more likely to make mistakes, and were substantially more likely to respond extremely quickly, which tends to indicate that someone is distracted and responding reflexively”
Study authors compare the level of distraction to actually picking up your phone to make a call, stating, “The magnitude of observed distraction effects was comparable in magnitude to those seen when users actively used a mobile phone, either for voice calls or text messaging”
How to Solve Smartphone Interruptions
So what can you do about iPhone and Android notifications that can make you less productive, make more mistakes and distracted? There are several steps to take, and you will need to remain vigilant as you install new apps. Nearly every app or game comes with a prompt to allow notifications, and these interruptions don’t know if you are driving, on an important call with your boss or rushing to complete the most important task of your week.
Trim iPhone and Android Notifications
When you install a new app and it asks you to allow notifications, think about whether you really need notifications from that specific app while you are working or driving. Most of the time the answer is no and you can choose not to allow notifications.
If you need to turn off specific iPhone notifications go to Settings -> Notifications -> Tap on the App Name – > Toggle Allow Notifications to off. Repeat for each app that interrupts you.
On Android you can go to Settings -> Sounds and Notifications -> App notifications -> App Name -> Block Notifications. This may vary slightly from one device to the next.
When you change the settings like this these apps should no longer send notifications. Don’t turn off your message app or phone unless you don’t want any notifications.
Use Do Not Disturb & Blocking Mode
After you trim down your Android and iPhone notifications to a reasonable level you still need to use a Do Not Disturb mode to completely focus on tasks.
On iPhone you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap on the moon icon to turn on Do Not Disturb. This will stop notifications when the screen is off and you will still get calls if someone calls twice in a short period so you can get alerted to an emergency.
Android phones also offer Do Not Disturb or Blocking Mode. On Samsung smartphones you should turn on Do Not Disturb or Blocking mode from Quick settings.
iMessage Do Not Disturb
On the iPhone or iPad you can turn on Do Not Disturb for a specific message thread. This is great to silence friends and co workers who send iMessages without worrying about the time and the frequency that they arrive.Use the new iOS 8 iMessage feature to turn on Do Not Disturb for a single message thread.
Go to the message or group message and Tap on Details -> Turn on Do Not Disturb. That’s all there is to it. Now you will not get notifications for this message.
When you absolutely want to be productive and avoid the distracting buzz and ping of your iPhone or Android you can turn on Airplane mode or simply turn the phone off. This seems obvious, but many people don’t remember that they can control the notifications completely.