As a person that runs my own business that has one employee (me) I’ve become painfully aware of the fact that I only earn money when I’m actually working, I trade my time for pay. I don’t have any viable means of earning residual income, it’s just a straight up trade.

With that fact sitting on top of me every day I’ve been working to make sure I’m billing as many hours per day as possible. A few of the obvious things for distraction are Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds…but what I’ve found to be the biggest distraction maker is — notifications.

Growl can be an awesome thing. It let’s me know when uploads in Transmit are finished, when files are finished getting packed into an archive…generally useful stuff.

The Unfortunate Truth

Unfortunately notifications can also be big fat wall stopping smooth the ‘flow’ of work. There I am coding away happily when a notification for a new email pops up, or a new Tweet comes through and I’m no longer addressing my full attention to the task at hand, a task for which someone is paying me. It’s more than just me loosing billable time, I’m shortchanging my clients by making them pay for the start and stop that naturally happens as we switch focus. Every change in focus requires a time of ‘spinning up’ till we’re most productive at that task.

Even if I’ve got Twitter and Facebook off on my laptop I’ve still got this wonderful iPhone sitting on my desk. It’s more than just a phone though. With it I pick up email, send photos to family and friends, text and get notified of about a myriad of useless minutiae that don’t really help me earn more money in my day.

The Fix

Really the easy fix for this is, to turn all the notifications off. My phone doesn’t beep, buzz, or give a notification pane of any sort when new information comes in. Sure it still rings for a phone call and I let it display a badge for new items of note but that’s it. There is no way it can notify me when things happen while I’m working.

With the simple badge I can still see that something needs my attention when I have the appropriate opportunity to address it but it doesn’t interrupt me.


I’ve heard the objection from a few friends that they need their email notifications on just in case something happens they need to address, and while I’d agree that for a very few people this may be true, the majority of us don’t realize how unimportant we really are.

When It’s Important

If something is really important clients can call me. If their site goes down they know to call, not email because I may not be checking it immediately. How do I stop clients from calling me every second they have something important? I bill for every minute on the phone. When it affects their pocket book they think twice about calling for every little item on their list. They respect my time by only coming to me with items that are truly important.