How I regained my focus in 60 seconds


It happened so gradually I didn’t even notice. I remember I was reading on the couch when my phone started buzzing. I picked it up. Another notification. Nothing important. Back to my book.

A few minutes later. Buzz again. Check. Nothing. Book.

Buzz. Check. Nothing. Book.

Buzz. Check. Nothing. Book.

Buzz. Check. Nothing. Hold on…

I didn’t ask for this. And you probably didn’t either.

Aren’t we pushy
Push notifications innocently entered the world in 2003, as a "you've got mail" alert that set BlackBerry apart from the other personal digital assistants available at the time. Along came the iPhone and the App Store and soon it was open season on our attention. Now, almost all notifications exist for the benefit of marketers and companies, not us.

“Allowing an app to send you push notifications is like allowing a store clerk to grab you by the ear and drag you into their store,” writes David Pierce, a senior staff writer at WIRED. “You're letting someone insert a commercial into your life anytime they want.”

Now where were we
After an interruption, it takes us approximately 25 minutes to get back on track. "Research also shows that it actually trains bad habits," says Design thinker and co-founder of the Time Well Spent movement, Tristan Harris. "The more interruptions we get externally, it's conditioning and training us to interrupt ourselves. We actually self-interrupt every three-and-a-half minutes."

By decreasing distractions, we increase productivity. Another cool feature, when we’re focused and “in the flow,” our levels of subjective well-being rise, both cognitively and affectively. In short, we’re happier.

I said no, no, no(tifications)
I thought I had been careful to disable notifications whenever I installed a new app on my phone. But when I checked, over half of them were enabled to push to me. It took me less than 60 seconds to clear this up. Now, I'll only get an alert if someone sends me a text message. 

Want to live less distracted too? Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to turn off notifications wholesale. Instead, use this quick exercise (iPhone, Android) to affirm your personal freedom from the robot overlords with each toggle OFF.