Interruptions are a part of life, and managing them is key to productivity. We are surrounded by technology that while enabling productivity is also helping us wastes a ton of time. Over the past few months I’ve tried a little experiment to limit interruptions and distractions. I keep my phone on the Do Not Disturb setting DND all the time. Wait! What? That’s madness! How do you survive?
I’ll be the first to admit that it was an adjustment, but it has been a good adjustment. Here’s why.
I’m constantly amazed at how folks stop everything they are doing to look at their device every time they get a notification, even if that notification is for a 1-degree change in the temperature outside. This seems the very definition of an addiction, but it is also rude. I’ve often wondered if folks are only interacting with me (or others) in order to kill the time between notifications on their devices.
Having my device on the Do Not Disturb setting allows me to stay focused on the task at hand, whether that’s a conversation, a project, writing an email, a meeting, or spending time with the fam. This allows me to check my device when I want to and not feel anxious because my device is constantly beckoning.
Self-control goes a long way here. Prior to my DND experiment I would just ignore my devices. I found I had gotten very good at just ignoring the buzzes and beeps and wrist taps. Those around me however wondered why I wasn’t checking to see the details of the notification. Using DND puts me in control. Once the task at hand is finished, I check my device for things I need to know, when I want to know them. I don’t let the fact that I have notifications distract me. Depending on what they are I may or may not handle them right away. I want to control my schedule. I don’t want my device doing it for me.
Now don’t panic. There are obvious exceptions to living on the Do Not Disturb setting. When I’m expecting an important communication, I turn DND off. This still requires a degree of self-control, as once I turn DND off all the distractions start again. I have to be disciplined to ignore everything but the notification I need. I have also finely tuned my notifications so when DND is turned off I’m still only getting the notices I need, not a myriad of noise because every app notifies me about everything.
Let me encourage you to take the DND challenge on all your devices, laptops, tablets, phones, watches, etc. We survived as human beings without these notifications and distractions for thousands of years and our future may be determined by how we deal with them now. Keep focus. Keep control. Don’t let your technology drive your interactions with others.
Jonathan Smith is an author, conference speaker, and the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, IN. You can reach Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.