4 min read

The life-changing magic of not being the first to know

How to keep your phone and notifications from interrupting your best creative work
The life-changing magic of not being the first to know
Photo by Paul Hoenhorst on Unsplash

I was at my desk plugging away at work when my phone lit up with a notification. My brain got a shot of dopamine from the incoming push notifications and I pulled my valuable attention away from my work to ingest the big news that had just been brought to my attention.

…It’s big news!!

Are you ready?!?

Yes, one of the Kardashians was pregnant. I can’t remember which one. It doesn’t matter anyway. Thankfully I got the push notification notifying me.

Surely, I was the first person in my corner of the office to know this urgent breaking news. I got yet another rush from this and felt the urge to break the news to others. I shared it out loud with whoever was listening. I got pretty much no reaction. I should have expected that. *Facepalm*

The Kardashian push notification rule

This deeply unimportant Kardashian breaking news was at the height of my phone notifications craze. I must have received 400+ push notifications each day at this point between email, texts, calendar reminders, sports scores, news, social media alerts, etc.

According to every personality test, I crave information and love to be involved. My push notifications regrettably reflected that.

I also loved the hit of dopamine that came with each little burst of information that lit up my phone. I loved the pride that came with knowing I was well-informed, both about important things and worthless things like Kardashian news. I really loved the feeling of knowing something before those around me.

But I started to realize something about my unsustainable pace of push notifications.

· It diverted my attention away from what I was working on many times a day. Research shows that it takes more than 23 minutes to fully regain your deep attention after an interruption.

· I wasn’t fully present in conversation with those around me.

· Random pockets of stress would follow me throughout the day.

· I was tapping on my phone ALL. THE. TIME. to see if somehow a notification snuck in that I needed eyes on.

· Notifications led me to open up my phone and get lost in some app only to reemerge 20–30 minutes later.

Not only was I gut-punching myself in all these ways, but I also started to not comprehend anything these notifications said since after 400 notifications I was tuning them out.

My brain was trying so hard to tell me something!

I was clearly on a push notification pace that was detrimental to my work, attention, mental health, and life. I began to scale back on scores, news, gossip, social media alerts, and finally mustered the courage to turn off work email + Slack.

I realized I was still going to consume the information, but I would do it on my terms.

Nobody cared if I knew a piece of news before them. Nobody expected I saw an email within minutes. It was all self-imposed stress.

This is what led me to create my simple Kardashian Rule of Push Notifications. Turn them off and only allow the very most important notifications push to you. You’ll find out what you need to on your time.

Turning down your push notifications

Your attention and mental health are more important than getting push notifications for everything no matter how important it seems at the time. You have control of how and when you consume news even during serious world events.

Here’s the starter kit for taking control of your phone using the Kardashian Rule of Push Notifications:

  • Go into your phone settings, not the apps themselves, and turn off notifications for essentially every app. Turning off notifications in the phone settings ensures the app doesn’t have the ability to send any sneaky ones through.
  • The most important and highest volume ones I turned off are news, social media, work, and sports apps. You know your app weaknesses best and should apply the rule accordingly. Ensure these settings apply universally if you have other connected devices like a laptop, tablet, or smartwatch.
  • The only ones I leave on are text messages and notifications connected to my house. That’s it.
  • Turn off the red bubble that sits on top of apps showing the unread notifications. It will help calm you down when you look at your phone screen.

In lieu of push notifications, I read news only once a day through several daily email newsletters, I check my email sporadically throughout the day but not first thing in the morning or at night. I have mostly taken social media off my phone so I check in when I’m on my laptop which acts as a barrier to always checking on my phone.

Remember, you are the bouncer for your notifications like you are for your entire attention. Only let the VIP ones come in the form of a push.


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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