Notification overload? 3 things to do now

Manage app notifications

Here at Clockwise, it’s no secret that we love a good app. A well-designed app can stretch the functionality of a device and, in turn, push the limits of what we can do. The downsides? Notification overload and the resulting stress that comes with it. Companies use notifications as a communication channel, but amidst the pings, pop-ups, and buzzes, notifications can make it difficult to focus, wind down, or experience a moment of peace.

The good news is that you’re in complete control. Why? Because apps need permissions to send notifications to your mobile device! In this article, we’ll show you three ways to manage notifications, whether you have an Android phone or iOS device.

How to manage app notifications

1. Be selective about which apps show notifications

The first line of defense against notification overload is to prevent certain apps from sending you notifications altogether. Look over your apps, and separate them into two categories: those that add value and those that add noise. What’s important? What can you do without? Make your notifications work for you!

  • On iPhone, open the Settings app, then tap Notifications. At the bottom of your screen, you’ll see a list of apps installed on your device. Just tap an app name, then use the toggle switch to to allow or disallow notifications from that app.
  • On Android, open the Settings app. Go to Notifications > App settings. You’ll see a list of apps that have recently sent you notifications. (If you want to see a complete list of your apps, tap All apps.) Just tap an app name to turn the notifications on or off.

2. Set a notification schedule

Your next line of defense is deciding when you receive notifications. For example, you could turn your notifications off from 6pm to 9am, ensuring a window of time with zero pings. As soon as 6pm hits, you can let yourself wind down, without a notification sound tempting you to check one last Slack message (we’ve been there). I have a member on my team who keeps her notifications off until 9am (after most people have already logged on), so that she can start her day mindfully. The quiet time in the morning sets her up to have a productive day, rather than a reactive day.

There are two ways to set a notification schedule: 1) your device’s Do Not Disturb mode; 2) the notification settings within a specific app. 

Here’s how to use Do Not Disturb on your iOS device or Android:

  • On your iOS device, open the Settings app, then tap Focus. Tap Do Not Disturb. At the bottom of your screen, tap Add Schedule or Automation > Time. Enter the range of time and the days when you’d like Do Not Disturb to automatically turn on. Hit Done, and voilà! When Do Not Disturb is on during your set times, you won’t receive any notifications. However, you can choose to allow notifications from certain people and apps on your Do Not Disturb settings.
  • On your Android device, open the Settings app. Go to Sound & vibration > Do Not Disturb > Turn on automatically. Tap Add rule > Time. Enter your preferences, double-check that your rule is on, then you’re all set!

Certain apps, like Slack and Microsoft Teams, also let you set notification schedules. If you’d like to pause notifications for a certain app, you can check if that option is available through the app itself. Or better yet, take advantage of the Clockwise and Slack integration, which will automatically put you in Do Not Disturb mode whenever you’re in meetings.

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3. Treat your lock screen like precious real estate

Okay, quick recap: By now, you’ve chosen which apps are allowed to send you notifications and when they can send them. The next part is choosing how notifications show up on your device, a.k.a. the notification style.

There are so many ways to configure notifications, but they usually boil down to a few core choices. If you’re on iOS, control whether notifications appear on your lock screen, in your Notification Center, and/or as banners. You can also control badges, which are the numbers that appear next to the app icon on your home screen, indicating an unread notification. If you’re on Android, notifications can appear on your lock screen, in your Notification Shade, and/or on your status bar. 

Our best advice? Be selective about the notifications that appear as pop-ups on your lock screen. Your lock screen is the first thing you see when you pick up your phone, and unlike the notification center that appears only when you swipe down on your screen, the lock screen is unavoidable. If it’s cluttered with irrelevant or non-urgent notifications, it’s more difficult to stay on task or keep your mind clear from external noise.

FAQs

What exactly are push notifications?

Great question! Push notifications are app alerts that pop up on your phone, even when that mobile app isn’t open. Companies can only send push notifications to users who’ve installed their app, whereas they can send SMS notifications to anyone who’s opted in to their list. App developers push this type of notification to your device in real-time, versus you opening the app to seek out that information (like when you open Facebook and click on the bell icon to see your notifications).

(iOS users) What is the new “notification summary” feature, and how is it helpful?

Recently, Apple released iOS 15 and a new feature that batches non-urgent notifications and delivers them all at once in a window that resembles a widget. Rather than experiencing a steady stream of (distracing) notifications, you can catch up on everything at a time that’s more convenient for you.

How can I get through notifications more efficiently?

To optimize the time you spend responding to or clearing notifications, we suggest using a batching technique. Instead of responding to notifications in real-time as they come in, save them for a specific time of day to answer them in batches. This leaves more time for you to find your flow and do some deep work. (The first time you try this, it may feel strange to not constantly monitor your inbox or phone, but in time, you’ll likely notice greater productivity!)

Another way to go through notifications more efficiently is by taking advantage of your phone’s shortcuts. For example, on iPhone, if you touch and hold on notification previews, you can access quick actions without leaving your screen.

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Time Management