pete rorabaugh

father | atlantan | cyclist | educator | scholar | union member

Corralling Digital Notifications

TL;DR version: with the exception of phone calls, I’m experimenting with limiting digital communication to two specific times (7a-8a and 4p-5p) each day. I’m curious to hear from others who have done something similar and have valuable suggestions.

I’ve been thinking critically about the time I spend engaging, responding, and generally maintaining digital communications for several years. After reading The ShallowsNet Smart and Alone Together in 2014-5, I’ve been aware of the undertow pull that devices have on our time, our attention, and our relationships. I read those books as cautionary tales back then, pretty certain that I was in control of how much time I was spending seeing and filtering notifications.

But I really don’t anymore. If I’m honest, on a given day my flow of interaction and productivity is interrupted and dominated by notifications — which means that other people and organizations are dictating what I work on instead of me.

The apps/platforms that claim the most of my time are: Pulse (which I use for text messages), Google Hangouts (close friends), Group.Me (campus networks and music conversations), Slack (teaching and organizing), Gmail (my “real” person email account), and Outlook (my work email). To lesser degree, I also get notifications on Signal, Instagram, and Twitter.

I’m ready to reclaim some of the time that I am spending cycling through notifications and “checking in” on conversations. So I’ve decided to experiment with blocking two windows of time: 7am-8am and 4pm-5pm for checking on conversations happening in those places. I’m going to be letting people know that if they need a very time sensitive or immediate response, that they should give me a call.

I’d like to know a) if you’ve tried something like this before, b) you have some valuable advice, and/or c) you know of any consolidating platforms that make it easier to check/respond on multiple platforms (of those listed above) in a streamlined way. Just know it’ll take a day to get back to you 🙂

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