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5 Ways to Stop Being Distracted by Phone Notifications

Recently I was sitting in a meeting when my phone lit up with a new incoming notification. Not wanting to be distracted, I closed the notification without unlocking my phone. When I glanced back up I realized that I didn’t hear an important update. I had not even engaged with the notification but in those few seconds I became distracted and had to ask for the update to be repeated. Sound familiar?

This scenario has happened to all of us. It happens when we’re spending quality time with our spouses. It happens when we’re catching up with friends or colleagues. It happens during meetings. It happens when we’re attending conferences or events. As Paul Jarvis says, “notifications are the crack-cocaine of instant gratification in the modern age.” Our spouses, friends, colleagues, meeting organizers and presenters deserve better. They deserve the respect of our full attention.

The distraction caused by phone notifications plummets productivity and impacts focus. In certain situations, such as driving, this distraction can lead to severe injury or death. This is why 43 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. Approximately 28% of these states go beyond a ban on texts and prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones at all while driving.

We need to break our addiction to notifications. We need to break our fear of missing out (FOMO) and start embracing the joy of missing out. Here are five tips that have personally helped me to stop being distracted by phone notifications:

  1. Turn your phone on “silent” mode - For years I defaulted to turning my phone to vibrate mode, until I realized that the vibration was just as much of a distraction as an audible ping. Since I started silencing my phone when I can’t or don’t want to be distracted, my focus in those situations has greatly increased. When a natural break in a meeting or conversation happens, then I dip into my phone to see what notifications await.
  2. Adjust your notifications - All notifications are not bad. Some notifications we enjoy receiving while others may be critical to work. Some we may want or need to wake our phones up while others can wait for us in the Notification Center. Both Android and iOS allow you to control the way notifications work. For those on Android, I recommend installing Dynamic Notifications. Dynamic Notifications allows you to tweak a variety of notification settings.
  3. Turn your phone over - Turning your phone over prevents even those notifications that you want to see from distracting you. I have started doing this during meetings, at an event or dining out.
  4. Keep your phone in a pocket, purse or gear bag - Instead of defaulting to putting your phone on the table or desk, try leaving it in your pocket, purse or gear bag. By not having your phone right in front of you, you will likely forget about it until you deliberately take it out to engage with it. I know that when I have my phone directly in front of me I tend to check it more often. Out of sight, out of (temporary) mind.
  5. Put your phone in the armrest compartment Similar to the last tip, putting your phone in the armrest compartment while driving can prevent the temptation of being distracted. I used to always keep my phone either in my lap or on the center console while driving. Even though I had my phone on silent and upside down, I realized I was still drawn to checking it when at a stop light or stuck in traffic. I started putting it in the armrest compartment and forcing myself to use the steering wheel, center console and/or voice controls that both of our vehicles offer.

These tips helped to increase my focus and give those around me the full attention that they deserve. Try implementing at least one of these tips for a couple of weeks and see how it helps you.

Question: What other tips have you found successful for stopping or ignoring phone notifications?

Photo Credit: theusfalcao

  • Colleen Onken

    When everyone is home, I leave my phone plugged in, by my bed, with the ringer way down. Everyone who I’m responsible for is with me. Why do I need my phone now? Changing the behavior of having my phone with me at all times was hard but, now we have these things called “uninterrupted conversations.” Who knew?!?

  • http://justinrlevy.com/ justinlevy

    A novel concept! I have heard of some people that leave their phones in a kitchen drawer so that it’s out of sight.