You probably consider yourself an organized person who is in control of your life. You may even say that your time is so valuable and that no one can make you do anything. If you have notifications enabled on your mobile device, the above statements are likely untrue. Any time a notification comes through your phone, you’re instantly taken away from any task you’re currently working on — you’re not only losing time from catering to the text, email, or whatever came through, you’re also using precious mental energy switching from one task to another.
Most deep work comes from pure focus and knowing what you ought to be doing at any given moment. Once you’re in the proper mode and feel maximally productive with the proper amount of attention required for this task, you’re perfectly prepared for tackling the task and accomplishing the project. The only things that may get in your way are life and digital life.
Life is when someone’s at the door badgering you about paying your rent. Digital life is when someone’ texting you badgering you about something else. Both require your attention — or do they? If someone’s at the door, you can answer it — I have no problem with that. If someone’s texting you, they’re not at your door for a reason — their request is less severe — they don’t need your attention straight away. Do you give it to them?
Most people say, yes, they give their attention to them even if their outreach was through text message or email.
This is merely poor time allocation and the inability to focus taking over. You know you should be working on something and you may even feel like you’re ready to take it on effectively; a text message is an excuse to procrastinate and not actually get any work done. The nature of communication should be instant — it can be when we’re referring to phone calls, door-knocking, and dinner dates. However, there’s no reason you should be working on your novel along with actively contributing to three group chats and keeping up with minute-by-minute political stories.
An even bigger facet of this issue is that you’re giving up all your control.
- You’re predictably responsive. This spoils people and gets them eager to text you at any given moment expecting a response straight away. They control when you answer them.
- You’re unable to accomplish your goals. If people are texting and emailing you whenever it’s convenient for them, you’re running on their schedule and living by their clock. The solution to this isn’t to stay up until 4 am so you can actually get some work done while everyone’s asleep — the solution is to determine your schedule and stick to it.
- You’re not happening — the world around you is happening. If you’re getting notifications about new bills being signed into law and latest celebrity deaths it’s going to impact your performance for no reason. This is easily solved by setting aside thirty minutes at the end of the day to review all the deaths, emails, and other news you wish to be caught up on.
Control is one thing most humans desire. It’s the freedom to do what you want when you want, and however much of it you want. The only thing stopping you from getting to a level of freedom is you. You are the most important person and you shall not allow notifications to dictate when you do something — it’s not the path to success and certainly not the path to freedom.