Notifications Kill Your Productivity: This Is Why I Turned Them Off

Darius Foroux
Sep 16, 2015 · 4 min read

Every day, countless messages compete for our attention and time. And too often, we give into these interruptions, which make us respond to other people all day long. Unless you work in customer service, these interruptions harm productivity. Messages from friends, colleagues, Facebook, Email, News apps, and countless other messages want to claim your attention — like a baby, but the difference is that babies need and deserve the attention.

It almost seems impossible to write an email without being interrupted by a WhatsApp message, a colleague who is asking for something, or a phone call.

When you are responding to messages throughout the day, you just can’t focus on work. Every time you are distracted it takes time and energy to switch between tasks. Most people’s days revolve around juggling multiple tasks and projects at once. It’s the feeling of having so many obligations that make you feel anxious. Imagine receiving a text from your friend about another friend’s birthday gift while trying to write an important email. What do you do? Most of us leave the email to respond to our friend.

We feel obliged to respond to everything and everyone. When we return to the email, we forget the point we were trying to make in our email. The reason for this is simple: we cannot multitask! I found that if you want to work stress-free you should focus on one task at a time. By using the full capacity of your mind, you can complete tasks quicker and better. In the case of the example: concentrate on writing an email, then on responding to your friend’s birthday gift.

Stop Responding To Notifications By Turning Them Off

When you feel you are not productive, the chances are that it is because interruptions and multitasking drain your energy. When you juggle multiple things simultaneously, like: sending an email, texting a friend and checking your Facebook while you are in a meeting — you engage in context switching. In a research done by Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, it showed that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. On most days you are likely interrupted more than once — this adds up quickly and before you know it, you feel like you have done nothing that day.

Clifford Nass, a sociologist from Stanford University, has researched the impact of multitasking and found that people who engage in multitasking are “suckers for irrelevancy.” We engage in multitasking because we are distracted by notifications, which are addictive. We just can’t control ourselves — we must look at the notification to see who or what wants our attention. Every time a notification pops up on our screen, we get a rush that releases dopamine.

Dopamine is one of the body’s happy chemicals — it controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain and makes you feel joy. This joyous feeling is addictive and makes us seek out behaviors that stimulate dopamine. You can think about food, sex, drugs and the notifications you receive on your screen. While dopamine may cause a rush, it also exhausts us. That is why you still feel tired at the end of the day while you have not been productive. This is a harmful process, and we need to stop this pattern.

It’s difficult to change your behavior. Your smartphone is likely the biggest source of distractions. When I did the following things, I instantly became more productive:

1. Turn off notifications on your smartphone

This will take away distractions. You can start by turning off push notification on your news apps. Then, follow with email. Finally, if you want to eliminate distractions — turn off all notifications. Only check your phone when you want — don’t be a slave to it.

2. Delete Facebook from your smartphone

Facebook equals procrastination. I don’t have Facebook on my phone for almost a year. My brother recommended me to delete Facebook: “you waste hours on Facebook,” he said. He was right. You need to trust me on this, remove it, and you will instantly find out that you have less stuff to do on your phone.

These productivity tips won’t double or triple your productivity, but they sure will give you more peace of mind so you can focus on what is important: your life.

I’m a , entrepreneur and coach who is obsessed with doing more in less time. My book , is out now.

Darius Foroux

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I write about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. My book, The Road To Better Habits, is now free