We are constantly being bombarded with notifications, alerts, feeds, and messages. I have 43 apps installed on my phone. Each one of them has the ability to send a push notification. The average iPhone owner in the United States has 32 apps installed. South Koreans have 40!
I am exhausted (and so are you)
This past Friday (4/7/2017) I received 256 emails. If I spend an average of 1 minute per email I spent around 4 hours of focus on email.
We use Slack at Voray. We have 14 active users, and a handful of helpful bots. On Friday (4/7/2017) we (as a team of humans) sent 684 messages. Over the same time our bots sent 121 messages. A very high percentage of our messages are important, and need some attention. If I spent an average of 15 seconds of focus on each message I spent 3.5 hours of focus on Slack.
I spent 7.5 hours of focus on email and Slack!
Focus is finite (so is time)
On average my brain works a 7.5 hour day before even having a chance to do my actual job. Assuming you aren’t in Limitless you have a finite amount of focus per day. Tim Ferriss says it is 4 hours a week. I think I can do 6 hours of deep work per day.
Just email and Slack cause me to start my workday with a negative balance on focus. I have to generate an extra 1.5 hours of focus (coffee?) per day!
How am I supposed to focus on the hard problems?
Engagement is a naughty word
Ironically we have a metric that we use to track how much focus we are stealing from something else: engagement. Every day something new will come along to take your focus! Read the Snap S-1…
Here are thoughts on breaking the cycle:
- Turn off email push. Do you really need email to be real-time? Check your email on your own schedule
- Setup VIPs! This allows me to be notified when my boss (hi David!) emails me and when my family messages me
- Unsubscribe from all emails that aren't transactional. All of those marketing emails are designed to take your focus away from whatever you should be doing. Make your email work for you
- Turn off push notifications for iMessage / Slack / Messenger / Hangouts / VRBO / WhatsApp. Check them when you want to give it your focus not when it wants it
- Do you need a notification for every Slack message? Can you leverage the “Unread Messages” functionality on your own schedule? Slack is an important communication tool when it is working for you
- Leverage “Do Not Disturb”-modes. Set boundaries on when and how you want to be notified
- Use RSS/Atom to ingest information when you want to spend the time on it
- Read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and apply it to your time. Remember that there are only so many hours a day, days a week, weeks a year, and years in a life
- Always remember that we are designing software to keep people engaged. I am hoping you focus on this blog post instead of on something else