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05 Aug 2015, 14:56

Chained to Notifications

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priority phone notifications

Priority mode on stock Android

A while back, there were a few months where I was wearing multiple smart wearables. The wearables were nice, but both of them subscribed to my phone’s notifications. Whenever I got an email, or a text, I would have three things on my body vibrating and making noise. Phone calls were the worst, because they would continuously vibrate and ring until I did something, and I was a little disoriented as to which one to interact with. Texts and emails were probably the worst, especially being subscribed to a couple chatty groups.

I was getting more and more stressed, and anxious. The notifications were not helping me to feel more on top of things, instead they made me feel trapped and forced to be constantly interacting with my devices. I also noticed that I would check my device every 5 minutes anyways, even if I didn’t notice anything coming in, that had just become a habit.

So, I decided to try something, I set my device on “Priority” mode for notifications, where phone calls, alarms, and calendar events were still allowed to make noise and vibrate, but nothing else was.

I figured that since I was checking my phone frequently enough anyways, the extra audio and haptic feedback wasn’t particularly important or useful. That day, I felt a lot better. Not nearly as much stress and anxiety, at least not that my devices were causing me. I could still use the wearables to check my notifications quickly, and they worked great for that. The big difference was that I was in control of when I wanted to interact. I continued the practice through the week, and continued to notice the benefits.

At this point, it’s been almost a year since I started the experiment, and my behavior has shifted a little. I pay even less attention to all the little notifications that are there. I don’t check my phone as frequently when I’m busy, either focused on work, or outside of work socializing with other people. This has turned out to be a really great trick to put me in control of my device usage. I also feel less pressure to respond immediately. If it’s something important, I’m not unreachable, people can always call. I’ve gotten calls from the boss when stuff’s broken, not a huge deal. But all those other little things? They can probably wait.

If you’re habitually checking your phone, I would suggest trying this out, chances are you won’t miss much, and you’ll feel better about it.

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