Push Notification Distractions and Anxiety

Everyone knows that distractions are productivity killers. But I’ve also started to become aware that all of the vibrations and dings going off in my pocket and on my desktop all day aren’t just distracting, but that every time they go off, I also feel just a little anxious. There’s a tiny bit of stress every time I hear or feel a notification that takes me away from what I’m doing.

I have no idea if I’m the only person to ever feel this way, but I don’t feel like it can be that uncommon. We just aren’t built to have our concentration broken in that way so often. So, in order to be more productive, less anxious, person I’ve decided to do a few things about it.

Deleting Noisy and Useless Apps

I had a bunch of different social apps on my phone I didn’t need: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Path, Foursquare and Tumblr. Of those, I use Facebook to keep up with people who I don’t have a better way to track, and Tumblr for browsing and time wasting. Nothing has ever happened on any of these that needed my immediate attention, so I deleted all of them from my phone.

The social apps I kept were for Twitter, App.net and Instagram. For Twitter and App.net, I deleted the desktop clients I had and decided to only use them from my phone. I kept Instagram because I like some of the pictures I take with it, but I may change my mind on it too.

Any apps that I don’t use on at least a near-daily basis, I also deleted. If they’re that important, why do I have them buried in a folder on my third home screen? For any apps I use, but that send notifications for things that aren’t time sensitive (e.g., Instacast for new podcast episodes), I turned off notifications all together.

Dealing with Mail

Mail is one case where sometimes I might get something kind of urgent, but that most of the time is just buzzing away annoying me for no reason. I moved it to my second home screen, and turned off notifications and badges for everything except VIP. I also removed a few people from VIP that didn’t need to be there.

Using Do Not Disturb

The last thing I’ve started doing is keep “do not disturb” active on both my phone and computer whenever I don’t want to be bothered (which is a lot). On your phone, you can set it to always let certain people and repeated calls through, but I turned those off too. If I need to focus, nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait for a little bit.

Izze the Little Brown Pig

About seven years ago — when I was twenty-one and had just been hired at the Guitar Center in Sacramento — I bought a baby guinea pig and named her Izze (like the soft drink). Last Thursday she died. Friday I cleaned all of her stuff out, took her cage to the recycling, and put her food bowl in a drawer in the kitchen. Seven years old is a long time for a guinea pig to live, and a quarter of my life so far. The day I got her I could hold her in the palm of one hand. On Thursday I had to take her on the bus in a box to the vet so that they could cremate her and dispose of her ashes.

Before Izze, I had two others — Teddy and Dolly. Teddy I got when I still lived at home and worked at a Petco. She was one of these animals someone at the store decided couldn’t be sold for one reason or another, so they left her in the back with all of the sick animals. Eventually she would have gotten sick and died back there, so I took her. I had Teddy for about three and a half years, and she died while I was in Germany about a year before I moved to Portland. Dolly I got from a guinea pig rescue in the South Bay right after I moved out of my parents house. She only lived a couple of months; she was probably older than they thought when I adopted her from the rescue.

While Teddy was still alive — right before I was about to go to Germany to work with Cultured Code for a couple of months — I bought Mooby (like the fast food mascot from Kevin Smith movies). Mooby was big and had a lot of personality from the day I bought her. Since Teddy died while I was gone, the next four years it was just Izze and Mooby. When I moved to Portland, They sat next to me as I drove a U-Haul truck to Portland. The first month I was here, they stayed with me in a hotel and chewed up some of the furniture (oops). After that they both came with me to the three different places I’ve rented since moving to Portland. When Mooby died last year I was pretty broken up about it, and Izze was all by herself for the first time.

I was a little afraid to write this, because I thought people might make fun of the fact that I’m talking about a guinea pig, and not a dog or something. Really though, why should
it be any different? Seven years is a long time. I’m twenty-eight now, and that pig went with me to every place I’ve ever lived — from before I had any idea what I could do with my life, to finding a career that I love, to moving to an entirely different state. She was there for every part of what I consider my adult life so far.

Izze was a sweet little brown guinea pig who squeaked whenever I opened the refrigerator, peeked out her cage to see what I was up to, never bit anyone her entire life, and who was the companion who’s stayed with me the longest so far in my life. I’m going to miss her a lot.


Izze getting her cage cleaned. Macintosh Meets MoobyPainting a friend had made for me.