State of the Art: Notifications

I’ve turned almost all of the notifications on my phone off, and I never agree to them on my laptop. Why? The little dots fill me with anxiety, dread, and a constant urge to tap them open to deal with them.

I’ve been a proponent of “Inbox Zero” for years. I used to go into work, grab my cup of coffee and breakfast and immediately tackle the inbox- all the email that could be deleted was deleted, any email that could be given an answer in 5 minutes or less was answered during my coffee time, anything that required an action or a longer more thought out reply was scheduled to be completed as soon as possible. If I couldn’t answer an email because I was waiting on someone else, I sent a reply with that information and added a “nag/follow up” time to my day. This took maybe 15 to 30 minutes of my time and it made my day much better. I would also check my email at lunch and then after lunch. Email was never checked in the last hour of the shift.

Then came the creation of notifications.

This meant that when an email arrived a notification dinged on my devices and my work computer.

Then I got my self and iPod Touch. I snagged it for listening to music. But it also came with those damn red circles filled with numbers. The sight of them on my screen triggered my need to process the notifications to get rid of the red dots. In the early days of twitter and facebook this was nigh impossible. I’d deal with the notification only to get a friend in a different time zone going through and commenting on everything in my feed. My zero would climb rapidly to 20 and 30.

I found myself powerless to ignore the red circles.

So I turned them off.

For everything.

At first it was more anxiety inducing, what were my friends going to do if I wasn’t IMMEDIATELY available to them? Would I lose out on some of the custom book binding business? Would I lose followers on the socials?

I quickly learned that the answer to all of those questions was that it would all be fine. The pressure to immediately respond was in my head, and most of my friends were okay to wait until lunch or after my shift. Twitter waited. Facebook waited.

Waiting wasn’t going to cause the end of the world, or my business. It did slow things down. I think things would have been different for me if I hadn’t had to have the 40+ hour a week job, but such is life. We make choices based off our lives in the moment, and I learned a great deal of valuable information working in the various jobs I’ve had over the years.

Why do I bring this up now?

Well, damn the news is all sorts of messed up. We’ve got Florida attempting to control the language and speaking of it’s people. We’ve got Texas denying medical care to transgender folx. And we’ve got Russia starting a war. Not to mention social media controlling narratives and getting a Cheeto elected. It’s a lot to take in and it can be overwhelming.

When it comes to the news and notifications I treat it similarly to Inbox Zero. I sit down with my morning cup of coffee and breakfast and I read the news. For me news includes my Feed Readers (I use Feedly and the Old Reader, this way I can follow several hundred blogs and not go over the reader limits), Twitter and several Morning Brew newsletters. If I don’t have enough time to review or read them all, I don’t.

My goal is to stay informed about a variety of things going on in the world, without them overwhelming me. Though I have to say that the three things I mentioned above all feel very personal to me. This isn’t the place to detail my existential dread, but I’m feeling a lot of it. But I’m also not allowing myself to dive into and endless doom scroll of reading ALL THE NEWS. When I get overwhelmed with the news I tend to shut down. My brain goes blank and I find it impossible to get anything done, let alone my creative work. These are the times when I turn to things like rolling out gesso on canvas or coloring pages of my journal with watercolor.

Will turning off notifications work for you? I don’t know, all I know is that it helps me.

Currently I have notifications on for: text messages and weather alerts. That’s it on my phone. The only alerts on my laptop are for when it needs to be reset or has some sort of maintenance needed. Same for my Kindle.

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