I recently attended an event at a major arena in our city. While standing in line, I remembered coordinating a city-wide event there 30 years ago for our church. It was a huge operation. Then I remembered that I did it all without a cell phone, email, or social media.
Man, have times changed. It’s hard to imagine doing anything without my iPhone or laptop. Communication has improved beyond anything I could envision back then. And I love it all. Yet there is also a huge downside to it.
I love being available 24/7 for my kids and those closest to me. The problem is when everyone has the opportunity to pop into my world and demand a response. Lines have gotten blurry, if not non-existent, between work and personal time.
When I was a kid, there was just a single land-line phone in our home. It seldom rang after 7pm. And nobody called my dad about work unless it was a bonafide emergency.
We did, however, feel the need to answer every time the phone rang. Not a big deal since it was the only form of communication. But that solitary ring now seems insignificant compared to the multiple, incessant notifications we receive from email, texts, social media, weather and traffic alerts, calendar reminders, on top of phone calls.
Help For The Inundated
Unless you are in an emergency management service, you shouldn’t feel obligated to be available to everyone 24/7. It’s okay. You won’t be a horrible person for using some discretion and making choices to prioritize what gets your attention and when. Here are some simple first steps:
- You don’t have to answer everything immediately. Just because it rings, beeps, buzzes, honks, barks, or gongs doesn’t mean it’s important. All of those things create urgency—but urgent doesn’t mean important. You determine what’s important and how and when to respond.
Just because it rings, beeps, buzzes, honks, barks, or gongs doesn’t mean it’s important.
- Cut the noise of notifications. Even better than ignoring the rings and alerts, turn ’em off! Don’t make this about will power. It’s about unnecessary distraction. If you need to feel important by having these reminders of how in demand you are, I suggest talking to a close friend or therapist. Otherwise…
- Curb notifications. Go into your smartphone and computer settings and evaluate what notifications you really need. Do you really need to be notified when someone comments on a Facebook post? Do you really need to be notified when you received another email? If you’re still thinking about it, let me give you the answer—no.
- Kill notifications. I’m talking about when you’re engaged in a conversation with another, a meeting, a project requiring concentration—kill all notifications temporarily. If I’m FaceTiming a coaching client or a grandchild, they should have my full attention. I don’t need to see notifications popping up in the corner of my screen. Holding the Option key and clicking the notifications icon in the far right of the menu bar stops that distraction until I choose otherwise.
- Do Not Disturb. Another great setting option on my iPhone. When enabled, rings and alerts are suppressed. You can choose to let calls from certain people come through if you want. It’s great when you’re asleep, in a meeting, on a date, etc.
- Schedule times for replies. I want to be connected with people—I just don’t want to be controlled by rings and alerts. If you agree, determine one or several times a time when you’ll reply to emails, voicemails, etc. Letting others know when to expect a reply is helpful. You can do so in your voicemail greeting, email signature, autoresponder, etc.
You can have great relationships, personal and business, and be available without being a slave to your phone. It may take a bit of reconditioning but you’ll enjoy the productivity you gain—and the peace.
Question: What helps you to control the tyranny of the urgent caused by message notifications? Share your answer in the comments below.