The Red Dot Makes You Reactive

The infamous red dot associated with notifications makes us reactive. We see a notification and we tend to drop what we are doing to look at it.

In a creative job like software development or knowledge work in general, this is very disruptive because getting back “in the zone” or “in flow” takes a while. The impact of a single notification is huge and we should try to mitigate it.

Be proactive by controlling your notifications, rather than being reactive to them.

How I Handle Notifications

I’ve been toying with my notifications for a while now, trying to find the balance that works best for me. I’ve tweaked notifications on all my devices and adjusted them to what works best for me.

Only the upmost important ones make it to my watch: phone calls, important messages, Nest, etc.

My iPad is tweaked so that I barely have any notifications that can pull me out of flow. I mainly use my iPad for creative work such as reading, drawing, brainstorming ideas, and even coding so I need to protect my mental space as much as possible when I'm working on this device.

Group notifications in iMessage and Whatsapp are all muted across all my devices. I personally find group notifications very disturbing because they occur very often when a group is active, but are rarely important enough to require your immediate attention.

Overall, my system is still not perfect, but I feel like I’ve made good progress on taking back control and not being as reactive. This is an evolving process that I will keep iterating over, especially as I install new applications. For instance, I've recently been using the GitHub mobile app and I get important work notifications through it. However, I have not yet figured out in which bucket this app should go. Is it important enough to warrant a watch notification? Time will tell (no pun intended).

Have you felt the need to tweak your notifications? How do you handle the constant flow of notifications? Let me know below — I'd love to hear about your experience and learn from it.

Wissam Abirached

Wissam Abirached