The day after I talked to Eric about his focus times I tried to derail him in Slack. The message went something like this:

You shouldn’t be seeing this Eric. You’re supposed to be focused on work. So focus.

What do you NEED

Need is a hard word because often those around us try to dictate what we need. I have a friend that messages me on Facebook all the time. Despite the fact that I may not respond to it for a week because I don’t check Facebook.

Every time they bring up the fact that I take way too long to respond and I say I don’t check Facebook they tell me some variation of “Well you need to check Facebook, that’s where everyone is.”

What they mean is that Facebook is where they are so I NEED to be there too. The truth is that they’re the only person that persists in messaging me on Facebook and I may be the only person they know that persists in not checking it to see if maybe they messaged me.

The purpose of technology is to make your life smoother and easier; not to create complexity, confusion, and stress. – Eat That Frog

The first step in deciding what you need in your notifications is to acknowledge which things are imposed by others and which notifications you must have to do your job well.

Do you need some notification of every email that comes in during a coding session? Nope. Email is an asynchronous communication tool. The beauty of it is that you can let it wait and deal with it as it works for you.

Do you need every text message that comes while you’re writing? Nope.

Does everyone in every Slack channel deserve to steal your attention whenever they deem it necessary? No. Even though it’s supposed to be a synchronous communication tool, it’s often no your focus. You should be doing something else that pushes the ball forward in your work.

Will some people be frustrated that they can’t get in touch with you via these channels? Yup, and that’s their problem.

When it’s time to do focused work, you need to make sure that you shape your environment to make it happen.

Do you even need your phone visible? Some research shows that merely having your phone on your desk diverts your attention. You always hear your name being said in a crowded room because you’re burning some part of your brain cycle to listen for your name. Your phone on the desk is the same thing. You’re using cycles waiting to see if it might maybe have a notification for you to deal with.

When you’re doing focused work, the one thing that you need to get done in a day, take your phone right out of your office or workspace. Put it in your bag or a charging drawer.

We don’t do this because we succumb to the any benefit mindset.

The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it. – Deep Work

Almost every notification that comes through to us makes no immediate difference in our lives and work. Whether we get them now or in an hour, changes nothing.

Do Not Disturb

Okay, sometimes you do need notifications, and it’s a pain in the butt to go back to your phone settings and turn them off. This is where Do Not Disturb mode comes in.

I use DND mode every morning from 6 am – 9 am and there is only one person that can get in touch with me. My wife. She can only get in touch with me is by calling. I don’t see her text messages even because 99% of the time they’re not immediately relevant.

If I get milk on my way home now, or in an hour makes little difference, so I don’t need to have that notification pull me out of the creative flow.

The only way she can get in touch with me right away is by calling because there she’s marked as a VIP and gets through right away.

Disconnect iMessage

iMessage is great, and it’s terrible. It’s great because you have synced notifications across devices, which also makes it terrible. Especially on your primary working device.

I turned iMessage off on my Mac 8 months ago and haven’t missed it once.

My iPad is primarily a writing device, and it doesn’t have iMessage either because iMessage doesn’t help me write well.

If you want to get focused deep work done, then decide what notifications you need and shut everything else off. It may feel a bit scary not to be reachable, but I promise almost no one will notice or care.

You’ll get more, and better work done with the space you create in your life. You’ll be less scattered. As you train yourself to this new normal, you’ll have longer and better focused times of work.

Have an awesome day!


PS: If you’re struggling with focus, book a FREE call and let’s talk about what you’re doing.

photo credit: kthai cc