The Myth of Notification Overload

Imagine a pigeon in a box. It is trained to peck a button.

Every time it pecks the button, it gets a treat.

The pigeon learns to peck the button every time it wants the treat.

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Source: Mr Nobody, 2009

Now imagine, you decide when the pigeon gets a treat.

It has nothing to do with when the pigeon pecks the button.

He gets a treat when you want it to at random times.

The pigeon has no idea when it’s going to get it.

It pecks the button endlessly. It is hooked.

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Source: Mr Nobody, 2009

This famous experiment conducted by American Psychologist B.F. Skinner is the principle behind slot machines.

And push notifications.

We are the pigeons. Our smartphones are the box. Push notifications are our treats.

The real reason you’re hooked to your phone

We’re led to believe that notification overload is a big problem.

The real problem with push notifications is that they reward us on an unpredictable schedule.

When we get rewarded on an unpredictable schedule set by apps, we are hooked.

This is what makes smartphones so addictive.

No wonder we check our phones hundreds of times a day!

The more we practice being distracted, the more easily distractible we become.

If we lift a dumb bell 5 times a day for 2 years, we will invariably develop biceps. If we pick up our phones hundreds of times a day, we will invariably become good at being distracted.

There is a cost to this distraction. Every time we switch between tasks to check our phones, it takes us about 23 minutes to get back on track, according to a study by the University of California, Irvine.

But, notifications also connect us, inform us and make us smarter everyday.

So how do we stay on top of things without being hooked to our phones?

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A day of constant distractions

To answer this question, we collaborated with the brilliant minds at Dan Ariely’s Behavioral Economics Lab at Duke University.

We conducted a series of studies to understand if getting notifications on a predictable schedule helped strike this balance.

We found that there was a lot of advice on the internet to turn off notifications or use notification blocking apps.

But we had a strong intuition these don’t address the underlying problem of getting rewards on an unpredictable schedule.

So, we decided to test a notification filtering app with an app that delivers notifications at set times.

Why getting notifications in batches is better than blocking them

We built 3 apps and got 3 sets of people to use each app for a month.

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Comparing Notification Filtering with Notification Batching.

We were surprised by the results. Contrary to popular belief:

People who had their notifications blocked felt more stressed. They felt they missed out something important. They checked their phones many more times than usual.


People who got their notifications in batches on a predictable schedule felt less stressed, more productive and checked their phones 33% fewer times.

These people knew exactly when they were going to get their next set of notifications thus they found it much easier to refrain from checking their phones till then.

Batching notifications turned out to be much better than filtering or blocking them.

This is why we decided to build Daywise, an app that delivers notifications at set times in batches.

Daywise: Manage your attention, while staying on top of things.

I. Notifications on your schedule:

Daywise lets you pick a schedule and get notifications at those times.

Most Daywise users only check their phones around their notification schedules, without worrying about what they might have missed.

Daywise is designed to help you manage your attention.

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Get notifications on your schedule

II. Never miss anything important:

Using machine intelligence trained on millions of notifications, Daywise recommends which notifications you’d want to see instantly and which ones can wait for later.

9 out of 10 Daywise users use these default recommendations without changing them.

Daywise puts you in control. You choose which apps or people can interrupt you and when.

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Granularity matters, we know :)

III. So far, Daywise has saved people from over 100 million interruptions and thousands of hours in lost productivity.

Users love how Daywise boosts their mental health and productivity.

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Users’ faith in us have earned us global recognition.

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IV. Exciting features to boost mental health and productivity

Notifications is just the first step. There are a lot of exciting features coming your way to enhance your productivity. Here’s a sneak-peek:

Mindful Timer: That tells you how much time you’re spending on an app, while you’re on it.

Meeting Mode: Automatically batches all messages when you’re in a meeting.

Work-Life Mode: Turn off batching over the weekend. Make the most of your work days.

Interruption- free meetings. Mindful timer. Many more productivity boosting features coming soon.

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Coming soon: Productivity boosting features.

Take control of your time and attention. Be the person controlling the box.

You have a choice. You can either be in control of your time and attention. Or, you can be the pigeon in the box.

Download Daywise and reclaim control of your time and attention.

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Source: Mr. Nobody, 2009

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