As I reach the final stages of a major project, I’ve been saying ‘no’ more often. I’ve been turning down work, conferences and all the little things that take away from my ability to focus for hours at a stretch.
The other day I realised that my usual clampdown on notifications on my various digital devices wasn’t as tight as I ideally prefer, so I turned them all off. (You can read how to turn off iOS notifications here, and Android notifications here.) I’m writing down the various parts of this in case it’s useful to someone else in the midst of a big project.
In practice, this means the following:
- no badges on apps on my screen. (The software on your phone is designed to be addictive, to make you spend more time using it. I already live my life in black-and-white so that’s a start, but removing app badges is the next step.)
- permanently set to airplane mode. (This is easy for me as my work or life doesn’t ever really involve receiving phone calls, but it removes the chance of business / telemarketing distractions.)
- all other apps’ notification permissions turned off. (If someone messages me on WhatsApp or Signal, I will never ever get a notification about it. My phone won’t make a noise, nor will there be any badge showing that there are people who tried to get in touch with me. The only way I’ll ever see if anyone wrote to me on a messaging app is to open up that app. I do this perhaps once a day, sometimes only a couple of times a week, but I’ve conditioned myself to this level of withdrawal over the past year or two).
- Email permanently disabled on my phone. (Email is the big focus killer. If I generalise, it amounts to a box of other people’s requests on my time. So I have no way to receive email on my phone. I have things set up that I can send email (i.e. I’ve installed the SMTP login details but not enabled IMAP), but no way to receive it.)
I have a fixed schedule for things like checking email: two windows from 12-1pm and 5-6pm. Outside those windows, my email is disabled (using Freedom) so there’s no way for me to access it. On my laptop, a whole bunch of other sites whose addresses are easy to type and get lost on, I pre-empt my worst self by just disabling them during the day. Problem solved.
Whenever I write a post on this blog, it auto-posts to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Tumblr. While the temptation might be to check to see who has commented on it and so on, by locking myself out on a specific schedule, this means I can choose to look at these things at the end of the day, if I really need/want to.