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Day 18

Smartphone Notification Zen: Android Edition

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Notifications are designed to grab your attention. To pull you away from whatever you are doing in that moment and draw you into their digital world.

There are times when smartphone notifications are useful – an emergency call from a family member, a forgotten meeting you’re about to miss, or a last minute change of plans from a friend.

But the vast majority of notifications are about an event that has zero impact on your life – YouTube wants you to know a new video was posted, a tabloid wants you to know a politician said something inappropriate, or a retailer wants you to know they kicked off a sale.

Are these examples worthy of your immediate attention?

Probably not.

The effects of an interruption are bigger than simply a quick 60 second detour.

A study by The University of California, found that once we’ve been interrupted from a task it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain focus. Additionally, distractions negatively affect our moods and contribute to higher stress.

By default, each notification on Android generates an on screen banner, makes a cute sound, vibrates and adds a tiny notification dot next to the app with the notification. Android devices often have a dedicated LED notification light on the front of the device too to really make sure you’re watching.

Strategies

Follow the collection of strategies to take control of devices on your Android devices.

Settings

With Android devices you have full control over which apps send you notifications and which notifications you’d like to receive. We recommend taking a moment to run through the list of apps that are able to send you notifications and blanket block any that you never use (better yet, delete the app entirely).

To manage your app notifications…

  1. Go to ‘Settings’
  2. Tap ‘Notifications’
  3. Tap the app you wish to modify the settings

Top tip: If you receive a notification that adds zero value to your life, long press on the notification and you’ll be able to turn that off immediately, never to see another like it.

Do Not Disturb

Latest versions of Android have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. When in Do Not Disturb mode, your device will not receive any notifications nor calls, except from specific contacts (useful if family need to get hold of you in an emergency).

The method to turn on Do Not Disturb mode differs between handsets. But usually, activating Do Not Disturb mode is as simple as toggling a slider on the side of your device.

We highly recommend activating Do Not Disturb mode when you want to sleep and, of course, in the cinema.

Batching your notifications

The open nature of Android allows developers to provide a lot of additional functionality for your mobile experience. This includes app that roll up your notifications and limit them to certain time periods throughout the day.

Siempo, an Android launcher, is a fantastic app controlling when you receive your notifications. Siempo will show you notifications whenever you receive them, or at certain times during the day, or certain time periods during the day. Perhaps setup notification blocks during study times, when you want to be productive, at meal times or when with family and friends.

Disable notifications from inside your apps

Managing your notifications at device level is a solid start. Whilst it will certainly protect your attention from undue distractions, it won’t manage all the notifications an app or company can send you.

Marketing emails are a form of notification too – they scream: “What I have to sell is more important than your time”. If you still receive email and undue notifications after limiting notifications on your device, we recommend turning off notifications from inside the offending app or on their website.

Companies that abuse your attention don’t deserve it.

See The 2018 Digital Wellbeing Advent Calendar article on email management for more.

Author

Fraser Deans

Today's article was written by Fraser Deans. Fraser is a Digital Product Designer and founder of The Wholesome Technology Company, focused on practicing and spreading ideas for living well with technology.

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