5 Steps You Can Take to Bring Order to Your Work-From-Home Life by Controlling Notifications

By Jonathan Spira on 4 February 2021
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If you’re among the tens of millions of workers working at home during the pandemic, one thing more so than anything else may be driving you crazy: The banners, beeps, and bleats of notifications.

While notifications were always a distraction, telecommuting has created an onslaught that demands attention – in order for you to regain your attention and focus.

Distractions where a notification momentarily interrupts you from something you are working on have a hidden cost known as “recovery time,” a phenomenon I discovered as chief analyst at a think tank studying the issue of Information Overload. Recovery time is the time it takes a knowledge worker to return to where he was after a distraction such as one of those beeps or banners, which is on average five minutes per interruption or up to 200% of the duration of the interruption.  This is an average, by the way. It does not mean each interruption will come with a set period of recovery time.


I am a notification minimalist.  While notifications have a place and time, they need to be controlled, just like what is required with any other technology with which a knowledge worker regularly interacts.

Here’s how you can easily become a notification minimalist as well, with little effort and maximum return.

Start by turning off the beeps and bleats that accompany notifications.  I’ve gone so far as to silence my iPhone and rely on the slight vibration of my Apple Watch to notify me of an incoming call. (Granted, I turn on the ringer if I am not wearing my watch, which is relatively rare.)

Silence everything.  You will be in awe of what such silence can bring.

The second thing to do is to make sure any banner notifications don’t repeat, such as with iMessage.  The iPhone has a setting that allows you to limit notifications to one time only and you should use it.

The third thing to do is consider turning off e-mail notifications.  I look at my e-mail from time to time but I don’t allow it to interrupt what I am doing. If someone is e-mailing and not calling, it isn’t that urgent.

Number four is to turn off notifications from apps that simply aren’t important. It may be important to you to get headlines from the Washington Post but you probably don’t need notifications from three separate newspapers to tell you the latest on impeachment or the aftermath of the Capitol riots.  Come to think of it, do you even need any notifications in this realm?

The fifth and final thing is to intelligently use the Do Not Disturb function or just invoke Airplane Mode when you wish no interruptions whatsoever.

Working at home for many is difficult enough with package deliveries, kids and dogs underfoot, and other things that are not found in the knowledge worker’s native environment, known as the office.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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