How to Manage Notifications

Notifications have become overwhelming, to the point where they are playing havoc with productivity. It seems every app wants your attention for something, constantly buzzing and lighting up your phone screen. This has made it hard to find and action the important notifications in the sea of unnecessary ones, whilst also being a distraction from the real world. I never had any prioritisation over my notifications and allowed pretty much every app to tell me every action that was happening on my phone. My phone became cluttered and it made me kind of made me addicted to constantly picking up my phone to see what had come through. Thankfully, notifications are something you can control, and I would recommend you change up your settings to suit you and help restore order to your phone. It’s a small change but makes me feel so much more organised. Here are a few tips to help manage your phone notifications:

Prioritise the important stuff and turn off unnecessary notifications

Go through your entire notification settings and prioritise which ones are the most important to you. You might be surprised by the amount of apps you’ve allowed to send you notifications that you don’t need.

Email notifications are unnecessary for me. I don’t need to know about an email as soon as it arrives in my inbox. I rarely use email as a personal communication channel - I hardly ever receive emails that I need to urgently reply to and most emails in my personal inbox are messages that don’t require a reply. I keep the badge on the app icon, but have turned off all other sounds and notifications, so I can see when I have new email, but only when I’m actively using my phone and on the home screen.

I turn off notifications for anything that doesn’t require me to take action. For example, in social media apps I keep notifications on for mentions and messages, because it could require me to respond, whilst likes, shares and retweet notifications are turned off as they do not require an action. I don’t need to know this information instantly and can see this the next time I open the app.

Separate your personal and work life

This is one of the biggest things I recommend you do. Unless it is essential for you in your job to have all notifications on, completely separate your personal and work notifications, particularly emails. Smartphones have caused a world where people are contactable by default 24/7, making it hard to switch off from work after the day is over and you want to chill out. Completely separating out work and personal things on your phone and changing notification settings will drastically help you manage your work/life balance, reducing stress levels.

I use the iPhone mail app to manage my personal emails and the Gmail app to manage work emails. This divide provides clear work spaces for unique purposes - I know that whenever I’m using the iPhone mail app, all interactions are to do with my personal life and when I’m in the Gmail app, all interactions are to do with work, and they never cross. It keeps it clutter free and reduces my stress levels because I’m not constantly seeing work related things when I’m reading personal emails.

The same notification rules apply to my work emails as my personal ones - I turn off all sounds and alerts apart from the app icon badge. The majority of my emails are read and sent using my work computer and I rarely email outside of work hours, however, there are occasions that need to reply to an email outside of the office - so having the badge icon helps me see if there are new emails and I can quickly check to see if it needs an urgent response. I don’t mix my personal and work calendar either, but for some people this can help organise and plan.

I have completely separated my personal and work lives on my home computer too. I have a user account named “work” which is setup identically to my work computer in the office. Like with emails on my phone for personal and work, it creates purpose for each space, so if ever I do need to do work from home, I have focus on work and not distracted by the setup of my personal user account.

Set up a do not disturb schedule

I schedule do not disturb to switch on at 10pm, because by this time I am winding down for the night and heading for bed. I don’t need to be disturbed by messages and buzzes at this time, so having do not disturb come on without me actively turning it on each time is a great help for winding down and get a good nights sleep.

Clear out the notification centre

Finally, once you’ve changed up your notification settings to suit you, ensure that your notification centre is kept as clear as possible, deleting any old notifications that don’t require any action. Having an endless stream of old notifications makes it hard to find and action the important things.

These simple steps can really help restore clarity to the important things that are happening on your phone, knowing that when you do receive a notification, it’ll be something that is actually meaningful to you and actionable.