As an ongoing theme of wanting to better optimise the way I use (or not use) my phone/laptop, I've been trialling 2 things recently, which so far have been working really well for me, so wanted to share here:
TL;DR I disabled the red badges and Lock Screen notification banners for most of my apps, and the reduction in distractions has been liberating, without me feeling like I'm out of the loop on things.
Our phones have a lot of small, imo "anxiety-inducing", cues that trigger us to do things, they're so subtle that I don't notice them most of the time, which scares me. Probably the biggest one of these is their ability to misdirect my attention like a magician. For example:
"Can you pick up some bread, mustard, bananas...."
"Wait, let me note this down"
pick up phone
see a notification
respond to said notifications
10 mins later
*watching a YouTube video"
"What was I supposed to do on my phone again?"
It's not cool when someone distracts you from doing something, you tell them to give you a moment, yet our phones can do this so sneakily without me being conscious of it, in micro-doses too - time to rein in their neediness.
My goal was simple: what do I need to change so that I can add groceries to a shopping list without being sidetracked, clearly such a first world problem was never a problem in the past...
So I've "pragmatically" disabled 2 types of notifications: badges and Lock Screen notifications (Note: I use an iPhone). Emphasis on pragmatically - I'm not just blanket disabling all notifications, that's not useful, notifications are useful in their own nagging way, it just needs a balance.
1. Disable most Badges
I didn't realise how much subtle anxiety these little red warts induced. By design, these things stick out like a sore thumb to grab your attention, and condition your brain to "clear" them (and I guess you get a tiny feel good factor when they're gone). But good things come in small doses, and that ship sailed a long time ago with these red pimples.
So I went on a notification-cleaning spree, disabling badges for all but specific apps like WhatsApp, iMessage and Phone (because I do care when a close friend messages me on the weekend). For stuff like Email and Slack - I already check these regularly enough during work, and get notification banners too, so there is absolutely no need for for me to be distracted by a nagging red dot too, especially not on weekends - gone.
Picking up my phone this weekend where only 1 app has the red dot with messages coming from close friends only?
2. Disable most Lock Screen notifications
There was a simpler time when you checked your notifications intentionally, not subliminally. The lift to wake interaction completed the switch. I still think this is a very clever little interaction, kudos to whoever came up with the idea, it just doesn't work in high doses, like most things.
So as with badges I disabled the Lock Screen banners for all but specific apps (like phone calls, messages). For everything else, I just unlock the phone and finger swipe down from the top when I actually feel like checking my alert notifications. Which, to my unsurprise, mostly comprise of notifications that are not that important nor require immediate actions.
In general, I see a lot of talk on problems with smartphone usage, can relate to a lot of these. But on the flip side, these are incredibly powerful and amazing devices. All powerful tools require some level of calibration and fine-tuning to make them work well for us (note, I do a lot of woodworking with traditional hand tools as a hobby, and these literally require hours of setup before you can use them), and our phones are definitely one of the most powerful devices we use to date, so in this regard, maybe a bit more effort to "calibrate" and fine-tune how they work for our needs is warranted? I guess the perfect setup will differ between people, and no doubt it will take some effort to get it right. Disabling notifications was hardly a fun activity, but personally it has got me one step closer to feeling like this when I use my phone:
For anyone interested in adjusting the settings on an iPhone: