I “discovered” the best productivity hack of my generation 3 years ago.
My phone buzzed in my pocket when I was meeting for a one-on-one. Hating it when others look at their phone when engaged in conversation, I ignored it.
But the mystery gnawed at me. Was it important? What was I missing?
I didn’t hear anything else the other person said for the rest of the meeting. I was too engrossed in the possibilities of what my mystery notification could be.
We stood up and my hand instinctively reached into my pocket.
A new email! Oh boy - it was from… L.L. Bean?! Psht. Delete.
At that moment, I realized my phone’s notification system controlled my attention. Transitively, every app that pushed alerts to me had my attention within seconds. Resistance was futile, as proven in the meeting with my colleague.
Since then, I aggressively turn off notifications. Here is the short list of apps I allow to take my attention:
- Google Voice (text messages)
- Work chat & Slack
- GMail (only “important” personal emails, no work emails)
- Starbucks (love those Buy One-Get One specials)
Real-time apps are the theme, but the message must be addressed particularly to me. Also, caffeine is addicting.
These days, my son requests to hold our phones more and more. He sees my wife and I staring blankly into these magical gadgets that can produce “Elmo’s World” and “On Top of Spaghetti” videos out of thin air.
Following Atomic Habit’s advice, I’m using the inverse of the 3rd rule to break this habit: make it difficult. In theory, I won’t get distracted my phone if I don’t have it.
To implement, I’ve dedicated “phone drop-zone” space near the front door. When I arrive home, my phone goes here and I don’t pick it up until my boy goes to bed.
Focusing on my family is important to me. Proving it with action is important to them.