For Success in Life Turn Things Off

Photo Credit: <a href=”">Tom Wachtel</a> via <a href=”">Compfight</a> <a href=”">cc</a>

A few weeks ago I recently wrote a post titled nobody every changed the world by checking email. It was inspired by a talk that I heard Brian Tracy give. One of the other things he said that really struck me was this.

“For success in life turn things off.”

For the most part, we do the exact opposite. From the moment we wake up, we turn things on.

  • We turn on the lights in our rooms, our bathrooms, and our houses.
  • We turn on our phones, launch some apps, and “check in”
  • We turn on our computers.

And the endless stream of notifications, dings, pops, and buzzes begins. The sensory overload is turning our lives into the equivalent of being in a Las Vegas Casino. If you’ve ever been in Vegas for more than 2 nights, you’ve experienced the feeling of “I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.”

We spend all day turning things on. But if we can get in the practice of turning things off, we’ll see become more prolific, more productive and more peaceful.

So what can we turn off?


I have nearly all notifications turned off with the exception of those from my personal facebook feed. Since I don’t have any social apps on my phone, I don’t get those notifications. Anytime a new app gives me the option to receive notifications I choose the “don’t allow option.”

Joel Gascoigne has even talked about turning off notifications and he runs Buffer. So if the guy who is the CEO of a platform designed to help manage social media turns off notifications, it’s a pretty safe bet to say most of us could manage with notifications turned off.

Every notification provides you with a surge of dopamine. Because dopamine is incredibly addictive, this keeps you “checking in” to all sorts of things all day long.

If you turn off notifications, you’ll find that your use of social media is more deliberate, more proactive, and less reactive.


With few exceptions, most people don’t need to be able to respond to emails the moment they are received. But many people act as if they do. It’s unlikely the fate of the free world is dependent on your response to someone else’s email.

  • James Clear doesn’t check email before 11am.
  • Cal Newport is intentionally hard to reach.

And both of them have built significant bodies of work.

I’m finding that I can usually get away with checking email about twice a day. On the days that check it more than that, my productivity plummets. So try turning it off for a few hours each day and see what happens.


One of the best ways to optimize your life for deep work is to dumb down your phone in the way that Jake Knapp suggests.

  • Delete all the social media apps
  • Disable safari and the ability to browse
  • Don’t answer calls from unrecognized numbers.
  • Make your home screen minimal (screenshot below)
  • Put the phone in do not disturb mode for most of the day

And for a few hours just turn off the phone.


It might seem far-fetched that we can do anything without our laptops. But there’s tremendous power to doing things analog in an increasingly digital world.

  • I start almost all of my writing in a Moleskine notebook
  • Ryan Holiday’s notecard system which he uses to research and write books is all analog
  • According to @Brian Scudamore, successful people spend about 10 hours a week just thinking.
  • Some of the best industrial designers (i.e. people at Apple) in the world work for days on end without turning on a computer. The people who design computers work without turning on a computer. Food for thought.

By starting our days with our laptops off and turning off our laptops in the middle of the day, we increase the activation energy required to give into sources of distraction. Thus, we’re more likely to do something like read a book, or write in a journal.

Turning Off Noise/Other People

Sometimes we have to turn off the world around us:

  • Coworkers
  • Customers at Starbucks
  • Roommates

One of the best investments I have made in my productivity this last year was a pair of beats headphones and a subscription to focus@will. Both have been instrumental in my ability to tune out the world around me and focus. And as an added bonus the headphones have somehow caused me to workout on a regular basis.

By turning things off, you’ll find flow, do more deep work, and be more prolific, more productive, and happier.

I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive our next issue by signing up here