Vacation from Notifications

We couldn’t go twenty minutes without a distraction — whether it was a text message, calendar reminder, email, or app push notification. We were getting dozens of unimportant — but URGENT! — emails a day. And don’t get me started on how far behind we were on RSS feeds.

I thought technology was supposed to change the world and make us a thousand times more productive. But all I could think of is how much it was distracting me. And I get distracted easily.

I was about to explode from information overload.

It was time. Time to unplug and take a vacation from all of our notifications.

There is just too much going on to expect to be aware of everything and not go crazy. Knowledge is power; but too much knowledge is exhausting.

And there we were, overwhelmed by thousands of distractions. And we realized we had done it to ourselves.

Wife and I were experiencing suffocation by information. I’m getting a little asthmatic at the thought of how bad it was!

We all know stress is awful — but did you know that some stress is good for us? It’s called eustress, and our bodies need it. All of these notifications, however, were obviously an example of the bad kind — distress.

We took some drastic measures to defeat our distress:

  • We unsubscribed from email lists, one after another. (Our spam was automatically filtered, but this took care of our “legitimate” spam.)
  • We unsubscribed from paper mailing lists.
  • We opted out of unwanted general mailings and credit card offers.
  • We opted out of unwanted phone calls general mailings and credit card offers.
  • We stopped checking unread RSS feeds.
  • We took a hacksaw to our inboxes and archived everything that did not absolutely need our response. We ignored what could be ignored with innocuous consequences. (Sorry, not gonna watch that random youtube video.)
  • We pruned our calendars and disabled reminders for any event that doesn’t require immediate action.
  • We disabled dozens of update notifications on our smart phones. About the only things that notify us now are phone calls, text messages, and calendar reminders — which are very manageable.

And I couldn’t imagine going back! It’s so freeing not to be crippled by constant updates!

Now, our methods aren’t nearly perfect, as we still find ourselves on mailing lists and being called by telemarketers. But man, it’s so much better than the alternative.

Not convinced you need to take such drastic measures? Let’s try from another angle.

What activity would you LOVE to do but won’t ever do if you don’t clear out enough space for it? What if all of the free time you needed for your dream project was directly related to how much time you spend on Quadrant I activities?

What things are draining all of your energy so you are too weak to pursue your biggest goals?

What if you had the power to create margin and not be so unnecessarily busy just by putting up better boundaries against distractions?

If you’re happy with how many notifications you get each week, then don’t worry about it. But if you wonder how much you could achieve without them, you should consider it…

What notifications are the hardest for you to ignore? Know your weaknesses!

PS – Here’s an interesting article for fun — but don’t get distracted by it!

Digital Drive-By

This post is a thank you to all of you who force everyone around you into the complicated arms of digital technology. Often long before they are ready. You know, all the people who are hesitant to embrace “tech” — which can mean anything that has a battery, a screen, internet access, or a child glued to it watching “Monsters, Inc” for the 20th time in a restaurant.

You are rescuing others from their technical ignorance!

Why do you do it?

Well, because it’s obviously good for them. Surely they are dying to embrace all the newest technology, but for some reason they are unable to jump into the digital world on their own.

So you “help” them.

I would say you “push” them, but that’s harsh. It’s more like the gentle “two hand touch” in a jovial game of football. (Actually, my friends and I called it “two hand tackle” because that’s all we could play at private school. Basically, you got one solid “touch” to knock them out cold!)

Overwhelming others with gadgets is a blessing to them. If you find it useful, they probably need it and just don’t know it yet.

Who are you “helping?”

Well, anyone from your grandmother to the old man running his shoe shop on the corner for the last thirty years. They need you to throw them into the river of digital life so they will either drown or become techies.

  1. That polite bearded man who still uses the fourth flip phone ever made and never learned to type on these “fancy new electric typewriters” — all because he is a self-proclaimed troglodyte? I bet he has been craving a Sony PS4 for Christmas. It’s past time for him to receive that thoughtful “touch” of technology.
  2. The sweet woman who still can’t attach pictures to an email even though she’s been shown a dozen times? I’m thinking she needs a top of the line Android phone for her birthday — don’t you? It’ll be awesome!
  3. What about my mother, who is finally comfortable using email? I convinced her to buy the nicest iPad available. She was very confused at first, but I kept repeating how simple it is to use. Last I heard, she uses the iPad to read reviews before driving to the bookstore to purchase some novels. What a great use of all that technology!

What if they don’t figure it out quickly? Or at all?

Well, some nice young man in the sound booth at church will show them how it works. Or that lady next door who “does stuff online.” Pretty much any younger person who doesn’t look like an artist would love to hold their hands and clean up their digital mess for you. We would help them ourselves, but we’ve been very busy. Remember, we just disperse technology, not show people how to use it.

Actually, why don’t you help them out — I hear you’re great with computers!

And that is what I like to call a Digital Drive-By.

W. Albert Jameson, IV

On the other hand…
To all of the offenders like this:

Let people decide their own level of digital comfort. They will pursue tech if and when they want to.

Why is it so tempting to enforce a solution that worked for your specific case?