Like many of you, I often find myself negotiating for more time… to spend with my family and friends, to check off my to-do list, to get my doctoral work done, or even squeeze in a quick workout. If your campuses are anything like ours, I’m sure you are just as, if not busier, than I am these days trying to get everything done. Certainly, you can’t control the clock (which is why I never liked the term ‘time management’), but you can control the way you spend the time you have. Given the current transition I’m in, I needed to be more focused on what I was doing at any given time and remove all unnecessary distractions. So, what did I do that has increased my productivity more than I ever thought possible? I turned off all electronic notifications on my smartphone, iPad, and computers. (Yep, all of them.)
Over the last two and half weeks, I have been experimenting. I started with my phone because it was the device I used more than anything. Initially, I shut off all notifications to social media and email and it felt weird. I found myself still grabbing for my phone every few minutes (mainly out of habit) but eventually, the lack of interruption caused by the notifications allowed me to stay focused on the task at hand. After a few days of adjustment, I turned off notifications for text messages as well and ended up doing it for all other regularly used apps. Right now, the only thing that will cause my phone to vibrate, light up, or make a sound is a phone call. And really, if it is that important, someone will call me or find me another way. Shortly there after, I shut off notifications on my iPad and Macbook as well to ensure that even if I was tempted to keep those programs open, the notifications would not derail me.
I find myself more focused and productive, recognizing what I knew all along: electronic notifications are a barrier to productivity that encourages the fallacy of multitasking. In truth, time on task is what matters and I owed it to myself and my work to make sure I gave it my full attention. Of course, your results may vary, but are electronic notifications just another invisible structure that we have just grown to accept or can we still do something about it?
There have been three other side benefits. First, I feel less anxious. Notifications (and their interruptions) had me on edge, more than I really acknowledged. Now, whenever I have completed the tasks at hand, I can happily activate my device(s) and know that I’m doing it because it is convenient to me, not someone else. Second, consider how all your human interactions would go if you weren’t interrupted by your phone, tablet or computer. Whether at dinner or at a meeting, the people you are with deserve your attention when you are with them. Finally, consider how much safer your driving will be without the temptation of seeing what that “chirp” or “buzz” was about. Are you being a good example for those around you if you continue to pick up your phone when you don’t have to?
While I had planned to do this for only a two week period, it seems that it there is no looking back now. Smartphone… face down is my new reality. (I recognize that I could have done all this by simply shutting down my smartphone or desktop applications… and for some of you, that may be the way to go as well.) Who knows what will happen when I head to ACPA and ACUI in a few weeks 😉 So, if you’ve wondered why I may not be getting back to you as quickly as I usually do… now you know 🙂
Oh, and I double dog dare you to give this a try (and if you do, let me know how it goes!)
Have you ever considered how do electronic notifications impact your productivity? How do you manage the constant beeps, lights, vibrations, and other notifications in a sea of busyness?