Are you in control of your phone, or is your phone controlling you? Looking around at the average person, I’m guessing the latter.
Smartphones were supposed to make our lives easier, but somehow they went from being a useful tool to something we can’t live without.
I could go on and on about all the things that make smartphone apps addictive, but for now we will focus on 1 thing: notifications.
If you want to reduce the control your phone has over you, a simple but very effective action to take (today!) is to turn off your notifications.
Notifications are one of the worst parts of smartphones. Simply turning them off allows you to reduce your phone addiction while still having access to all the apps you use.
Without notifications, you are in control of when you pick up your phone, rather than your phone shouting for your attention.
Before we move on, let’s get one thing out of the way: You are not as “needed” and important as you think you are.
Sorry to break it to you, but most ordinary people are rarely “urgently needed”. And even if you are, there is still a very useful part of your smartphone that can cater to this: The actual phone.
One of the greatest issues of modern life is our overinflated sense of importance. However, it’s very unlikely that one will notice or tell you that you’re responding slower.
Now that that’s out of the way, you can’t let that be an objection while reading the 10 reasons you should turn off your notifications!
1. You always look at more than just the notification
When you notice a notification popping up, you can’t help but glance at what it says. Usually, they lure you in into opening the app. You’ll be like, “let’s have a quick look at this notification”, and before you know it, you’re scrolling 20 minutes through cat content. How did that happen?!
Apps and websites are designed cleverly to keep you on the platform. You think you just opened 1 notification, but many other things are screaming for your attention at the same time:
- perhaps an older notification,
- a newsfeed that you need to pass before reaching your notification,
- a “related” post that might be interesting for you,
- or maybe even another app you saw on your home screen with a red notification bubble on it.
Even if you just look for the time on your phone, chances are you’ll notice something else too and it will distract you. (You could solve that problem by getting a watch!)
2. To reduce your stress and anxiety
Notifications put you in a state of high alert. Your phone or laptop becomes a pool of messages, always looking for your attention. It constantly throws news, updates, promotions, requests etc. at you out of the blue.
- Breaking news: the economy is down 30% —> Stress/anxiety
- Email: can you draft this report asap —> stress
- Social media: Gary liked Phoebe’s photo —> anxiety/fear of missing out (FOMO)
By turning off your notifications, you can stop the ambush of notifications throughout the day.
3. Turn off notifications for less overwhelm in the morning
Notifications don’t stop at night. They continue to fill up your phone while you’re sleeping.
One of the first things most people do in the morning is to check their phones.
You’ll see messages you have to reply to, emails to catch up on, social media notifications to check, and usually something bad is published in news apps.
Seeing it full of notifications gives you a dreadful sense of “feeling behind”.
Don’t allow external forces to dictate your mood in the morning by turning off your notifications.
4. Be more conscious of your phone use
We are so conditioned to open our phone when we see a notification, it happens almost unconsciously. Next thing we know, we spend more time on the phone than initially intended.
Stop the first step of the cycle – the lure to your phone – by turning off the notifications.
You are still able to check emails, news and social media, but you do it on your terms, not because your phone pings every other minute. So you actively choose what to do, making you more intentional and more conscious of your phone use.
5. Be more productive instead of "busy" when notifications aren’t distracting you
You probably know the feeling of “being busy” but when you look back at what you’ve actually done… it’s not much. You’ve been busy with meaningless, small tasks only – or been continuously distracted.
Focusing on one task only, instead of multiple things at once, makes you more productive. It allows you to go deep into the task at hand.
6. Turning off your notifications will increase your focus
It goes without saying that notifications are the ultimate interrupter. They interrupt at work, while driving, during quality time etc.
All these interruptions during the day have led to us not being able to focus on one thing anymore.
We may be thinking we’re “multi-tasking” but actually, multi-tasking doesn’t exist. Our brains are just switching very quickly in between tasks. With each switch, there is some lag to regain focus, up to 20 minutes!
Take away the interruptions of notifications to focus on one task only.
7. Turn off your notifications to be more present
You’re catching up with a friend, deep in conversation over a drink. Then your phone dings or lights up. It’s so tempting to check it!
Even if you don’t check, your attention is compromised for a second because you’re wondering what the notification could be about. At that moment you’re not actively present in the conversation.
If you do check it, that’s actually called phubbing: phone snubbing. It means glancing at your phone in the middle of conversations or spending time on your phone when you’re supposed to interact with others in real-time.
When your notifications are off, you’ll be more present for those around you.
8. To be in control of what you do
When you’re bombarded with notifications left and right, it can feel like you have to react to each notification right away (hello stress!). But let’s face it, you almost never need to take action immediately.
Without notifications, you are in control of what you do and at which moment. This will force you to learn to prioritize tasks by yourself and be proactive, instead of reactive.
Remember, not everything needs an instant response. And if something’s really urgent, people will still usually call or text.
9. Notifications do not serve you; they serve the app creator
The aim of most apps is to make you spend as much time as possible in their app. Notifications are a great way for apps to remind you of them and pull you back to the app.
Once you’re in, there is a host of other methods to keep you hooked to the app.
Notifications are not for your benefit, but for the benefit of the app itself.
I read this metaphor and I think it makes the concept very clear:
“Allowing an app to send you push notifications is like allowing a store clerk to grab you by the ear and drag you into their store. You’re letting someone insert a commercial into your life anytime they want.”
Time to turn off your notifications.
10. Get more calm without notifications
All of the above results will lead to more calmness in your life.
No more aimlessly scrolling, no overwhelm in the morning, fewer interruptions, being more productive, being in control of your phone use, being more present and no more stressful notifications: It will give you a sense of calm.
There is already so much noise in the world – don’t let your phone add more to the mix.
Let's get started by turning off your notifications now
Now that you understand why you should turn off your notifications, there’s one thing left: actually turning them off. Here is how:
iPhone: Settings > Notifications > click on each app > Turn off ‘Allow Notifications’
Android: Settings > Notifications > click ‘See all’ below the ‘Recently sent’ list > Filter on ‘All’ in the top > Turn off the notifications for each app.
Got inspired and want to tackle your social media use next? Get the free Social Media Detox Guide.