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April 19, 2020

Push Notifications are Killing You; How to Turn Them Off

Every single time you switch tasks, your productivity drops by a substantial amount.

To illustrate this fact, I want you to open the stopwatch app on your phone and time how long it takes to say your ABC’s. Then I want you to time how long it takes you to count to 26. Finally, time how long it takes you to say A-1, B-2, C-3, etc.

For me, it took 6.77 seconds to say my ABC’s, 7.67 seconds to count to 26, and 58.9 seconds to do both.

Every single time you switch tasks, there’s some cost to productivity. Turning off notifications is the most straightforward way to save time and be more productive.

A Personal Story

It was 2011, and cell-phones were still relatively new. I was super into them, and I had my phone beeping every time anything happened. Here are just a few things my phone would go off for.

  1. Every Personal and Work Email
  2. Every Google Chat for work and personal use
  3. Text Messages
  4. Phone Calls
  5. Facebook Everything
  6. Appointments and Meetings
  7. News
  8. Amber Alerts
  9. Weather alerts
  10. Words with friends and many other games telling me to come back and play them.
  11. More notifications I can’t even remember.

I was 26 years old, and I felt exhausted all day every day. This should have been the physical prime of my life, and I felt like I just wanted to go to bed all the time. The constant task switching was draining me beyond belief.

It wasn’t until after I shut off the notifications that I realized that this device I loved was killing me.

The Phone Decided What I Would Work On.

It’s not just the cost of task switching that’s the problem. The phone also perverts how I prioritize my time.

I usually wake up very excited to blog, create YouTube videos, or code apps. But then I’d somehow find myself reading the news story that popped up or responding to a text message from my Mom.

Prioritization is probably the most important thing you can get right to be successful. And for people who get notified of everything on their phones, it’s something you no longer have any control over. Your phone dictates what you’ll give attention to and not the careful prioritization you did earlier in the day.

Turn them off.

Push Notifications Aren’t Valuable Information.

I want you to do something for me. Every single time any piece of technology pings you today, note what it was and whether or not you needed that information.

When you do this, odds are you’ll realize a lot of things reached out for your attention. 99% to 100% of the messages are not important in any way whatsoever.

Did I need to get any of this information right this second? No, absolutely not. Turn off the notifications and check the individual apps when YOU feel like checking them. Not when the phone tells you to.

Most of the things that your phone reminds you to do can be batched. For instance, you need to pay your bills, but do you need notifications reminding you to do so? Just pay them all on the 1st of the month and spend the next 30 days living your life.

Same with text messages, maybe you need to answer them, but do you need to respond to them all within 5 minutes of getting them? Batch-reply a few times per day and go live your life.

How To Turn Off Phone Notifications

I beg you to shut off these notifications even just for a week to see how much better you feel. If you don’t like it, you can turn them back on. But ideally, you’ll start using technology instead of letting technology use you.

On your iPhone, simply go to Settings -> Choose An App -> Turn Off Notifications. It’s that simple. Repeat this for every app on your phone.

Delete unnecessary apps

An excellent way to not get notifications from an app is to simply delete it. Hold down the app in question, wait for things to start shaking, and the “X” in the corner to show up, then press the X to delete the app from your phone.

Mute Group Texts, Consider Muting All Texts

You do not need to get notified about every single group text that happens like some type of psychopath.

To mute texts or group texts on your iPhone simply click on the name or number of the person who just texted you, then click info, then click mute conversation.

Definitely do this for group texts. But even with personal texts. If this is a person that will never send you an urgent message, go ahead and mute them.

Don’t Push Emails Notifications

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very convenient that you can check your email on your phone. That said, do you really need to check emails the second you get them like some type of crazy person?

Email is meant to be passive. Maybe you check it daily, two or three times a day tops. The last thing you want is these things showing up on your phone. So here’s how you turn them off.

On your iPhone, go to Settings -> Mail -> Notifications and set everything to off. Also, if you installed the Gmail app previously, go ahead and delete that. You don’t need more than one mail application on your phone, and Apple’s mail app is better.

Unsubscribe and Filter Your Email

One day you should go into your Gmail inbox and open up the last 20-50 emails that you received.

Read each email and ask yourself.

  1. Was this something I needed to read?
  2. Was this urgent?

If the email was some type of marketing material that you didn’t want to read, hit the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email. If the email has no unsubscribe button, hit the Report spam button in Gmail.

Just doing that will solve 80% of your email notification problems. However, there’s another type of email. The kind you want but that doesn’t need to be replied to immediately. Things like bill notifications. I want them, but I don’t want to be interrupted by them just this second. For that, you need to set up filters like in the images below.

In step 2, create the filter. I usually do it by the sender’s email address. You can see the emails that your filter would gather appear in your inbox.

Finally, click skip the inbox and then apply a label to the email. This will keep the email out of your inbox and send it directly to a folder with the label you’ve applied. You may or may not want to select “mark as read.” That does what you think it will; it marks the emails as read automatically. Finally, I typically apply to all emails currently in my inbox that fall under this filter as well to help me stay organized.

Repeat this process for 10 emails in your inbox per day. By the end of the month, you’ll never get another unwanted email again.

Consider Turning Off Your Phone While You’re Working

Sometimes people call you. I rarely get phone calls or texts that need to be answered immediately. iPhones can go on silent, but even then, the screen lights up and notifies you when you’re getting a call or text. This is just as distracting if your phone is in plain sight.

There’s a simple solution to this. Turn off your phone when you’re working on your prioritized daily tasks. You can turn it back on the second you’re done. It’ll be OK.


Your life will improve dramatically the second you get rid of all notifications. You’ll become happier and more productive at everything that you do. Definitely try it out; you can always go back to how things were before.

Shaun Poore got extremely busy and overwhelmed upon starting his first business. And the reason for it was the unfettered access his phone had to interrupt his day. Since then, he's started a very strict campaign about controlling when his phone can make noise (never). And his life has become much less stressful while he's become dramatically more productive than ever before.