Yesterday I wrote about Attention Pollution. A few of you wrote back thanking me for the reminder to focus on protecting your attention.
One person suggested that it was similar to the advice that eating healthier begins in the grocery store; if you never bring the junk food home then you are a lot less likely to eat it. Same goes for attention pollution—the choices you make about your device settings (or even the physical presence of your devices) go a long way towards preventing distraction.
That reminded me about the single best piece of advice about protecting yourself form interruptions: Turn off as many digital notifications as you possibly can on your devices. Here’s why:
- It can take up to 23 minutes to recover your focus after a short interruption (U.C. Irvine Study)
- Interruptions of just a few seconds make you more error-prone (Michigan State Study)
- Multitasking is terrible for your memory (Stanford Study)
- Most workplace interruptions are self-inflicted (Inc Magazine Article)
Personally, I disallow most notifications on my phone (I’m an Apple user) and I try to use the new “Focus” settings when I’m heads down on a project. I also like iOS’s new Notification Grouping function that gathers the few notifications I do allow in the background and only delivers them once or twice a day. I’m told that Android has similar tools.
Also, I don’t allow ANY notifications for emails on any devices: no sounds, no popups, nothing. I already check my inbox more than I should, and truly urgent messages simply don’t come via email anymore (if they ever did).
What else should I be trying? If you have a good hack for protecting your attention, I’d love to hear it.