Distractions are a Nuisance, but Infinity Pools are the Real Problem

John Zeratsky
Make Time
Published in
5 min readJan 6, 2017


This kind of infinity pool is totally cool. Photo by Vin Crosbie.

When Jake and I talk with people about making their iPhone distraction-free, the conversation always starts with notifications: alerts, buzzes, beeps, pop-ups, and the million other things that try to steal your attention.

Turning off notifications is a great start. Actually, I think it’s a little bit nuts to leave them on. Carrying around a smartphone with all the notifications enabled is like tuning your television to CNN, cranking up the volume, and then leaving it on all the time while you try to work, hang out with your family, drive a car, read a book… you get the idea.

But if you feel like you’ve lost your ability to focus, and you want to reclaim the time wasted on mindless browsing and pull-to-refreshing, disabling notifications is not the solution.

See, notifications are actually pretty easy to ignore. The world is full of distractions, and you learn to tune them out. When you walk down a busy city street, or drive along a billboard-lined highway… or yeah, even work with the television on in the background… you learn to focus despite all the distractions.

While notifications are a nuisance, there’s a far more insidious type of distraction lurking in our devices: Infinity Pools.

What are Infinity Pools?

Infinity Pools are always-on, effectively infinite sources of information and entertainment. Things like:

  • Pull-to-refresh apps (Facebook, Mail, Instagram, Twitter, etc)
  • Video streaming services (YouTube, Netflix, HBO, etc)
  • Even web browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc), which provide on-demand access to pretty much all the information in the world.

I call them “Infinity Pools” because you can dip back in at any time. There’s always more water in the pool.

Even if you disable notifications on your smartphone and close email on your computer, the Infinity Pools are always there. They’re ready for you, and there’s always something good: breaking news, beautiful photos, answers to a question.

But they can be too much of a good thing. Keeping Infinity Pools on your phone is like having a casino in your house…



John Zeratsky
Make Time

Supporting startups with capital and sprints. Co-founder and general partner at Character. Author of Sprint and Make Time. Former partner at GV.