Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

How to manage notifications and not go crazy?


There’s a chance that some of you are already wearing your Apple Watches while reading this. I still don’t have mine (arriving today!)… but anyway, there’s a lot of skepticism regarding our new wrist computer. On the one hand, it’s a nice-looking gadget but on the other, the software seems slow, there are problems with battery life and, most of all, with notifications which constantly buzz and disturb the user.

Note: The following article appeared first in the May’15 issue of iMagazine - the leading lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts in Poland. I’m a regular contributor and write my monthly productivity column there.

How to manage notifications and not go crazy?

Notifications are not just Apple Watch’s problem!

I’ve been using iPad as my main computer for quite a long time, and the iPhone even longer… and I really like to observe how other people use their mobile devices. There are many different ways but the most important thing is to keep a cool head.

Almost every app on our devices asks for permission to send “push” notifications.

Usually we enable them because we’re not fully aware how often (or rarely) we’ll be receiving them. Later, we’re often surprised that our phone is vibrating all the time, while another app is screaming and trying to get our attention by popping up a new notification.

It’s, however, up to us whether we take control and set notifications properly or not. Everything depends on whether we allow apps to fight for our attention or decide what can and what’s not supposed to disturb us. But how to approach it? Below, I’ll try to present my way of dealing with notifications:

Question 1: what I don’t want to see?

One of the most popular notifications are new email and social media alerts.

In my case it looks like this: I’ve completely disabled new email notifications. When I want to check my mailbox I simply open it every few hours. Then, I view messages, respond to them if necessary and return to work. I can do it because I communicate with my team through tasks in Nozbe, and I have Nozbe notifications enabled. I only receive emails from the “external world” and they usually can wait and don’t require a rapid response. And I need to have time to focus on work.

As for social media notifications I’ve disabled all of them but not right away. First, I turned off Facebook and Twitter notifications. If I want to check what’s going on, I simply open the app. Again: once every few hours. At the beginning of my adventure with Instagram, I was very happy with the likes I was getting for my photos so I used notifications. With time, however, I decided to disable even these “uplifting” notifications.

I adjust notifications to what I want to see right now (direct message) or what I don’t need to be informed about at a particular moment (e.g. someone liked my post on Facebook).

Question 2: where do I need to know it?

By definition, the computer and iPad are devices that we use a couple of hours a day. On the other hand, when pulling out the iPhone, we use it for a couple minutes at one fell swoop. As for the watch… we use it for just a couple of seconds.

That’s why I receive much less notifications on my iPad than on my phone. I use iPad for work and need to stay focused - like right now when I’m writing this column.

If I receive a notification on my iPhone and it’s in my pocket with vibrate mode on - I can ignore it and continue writing. I know that it’s not important enough to stop work and check it out.

On the other hand, there’s the watch - Apple’s smallest device, on which you also have to limit notifications, so that it won’t be constantly pulling your wrist. Fortunately, in the watch’s settings you can specify which notifications you want and don’t want to receive.

That’s just how it is - you have to decide where you want to receive specific notifications.

Question 3: what do I want to respond to?

This is the most important question. Especially in case of the watch. I’ll definitely leave Nozbe notifications so that I can immediately respond to them. Someone’s delegated me a task? I can complete it, view it or delegate it to someone else. Someone’s invited me to a project? I can accept the invitation without pulling my phone out. Isn’t that awesome?

Someone’s sent me an email? Great, but I can’t reply to it on my watch… so I’ll always disable these kinds of notifications. The newest issue of iMagazine is available for download? Great, but I won’t read it on my watch. That’s why I’ll get a notification on my iPhone, not Apple Watch.

So, if something is important and I can respond to it on my watch, I’ll definitely leave such notifications.

Notifications can boost productivity…

… or get on your nerves. But it’s up to us how we use them. The more I think about it, the more I see Apple Watch as a kind of “control center”, in which I can not only check the time, but also make fast decisions without pulling my phone from my pocket or using my computer or iPad.

Question: And how do you use notifications? Do you find them helpful or irritating? Are you buying the watch? Which one?

Thursday, May 28, 2015 /notifications/