Hush notifications to be distractions-free

I had encountered umpteenth article on how minor disruptions are terrible to work flow. Lately I have indeed felt that few things tend to require immediate attention for no good reasons.

So I went over software and disabled all over aggressive notifications to see if there is a difference.

Worst offenders

  1. Mail
  2. RSS

These may be quite important, but there is no way to distinguish when they aren’t. One thing I came to understand is that reading two hours worth of mail and feeds once is much faster than reading 15 minutes worth eight times.

So I disabled email notification in Opera and new items notification in FeedDemon. Latter is really overly visual and audible, separate sound for keyword watches can almost add up to crappy music.


I honestly tried with Twitter clients but as soon as web interface got updates notification without need to refresh – I ran back to it. It doesn’t beep and I keep my stream focused, manageable and easy to handle.

In IM (guess I can put Google Wave in this category as well) most of my contacts aren’t pointlessly talkative. I’ve disable ICQ notification that message is being typed, but other than that no need to kill notification completely. There are also convenient statuses to set when needed.

Design downsides

One thing that I really disliked is that Opera doesn’t distinguish ticker notification and rest of signs there is new email. So when mail notification is disabled I had also lost tray icon change and dot on mail sidebar panel.

Even less of a distraction, but now checking mail requires to bring Opera up and open sidebar every time. :(


Cannot say that getting rid of notification made me insanely productive. Still it had most obviously reduced number of trips to read stuff. And the more processed in bulk, the less overhead time is wasted.

I won’t pronounce this unquestionable boon to getting things done, but I do suggest that you should try it for yourself and see if changes are that positive.

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  • kelltic #

    If you knew me you would know not to get between me and my thought processes. When I'm working or when I'm trying to get some unpleasant task out of the way, anything that pops up and makes an announcement - even though I was the one that told it to do so - awakens my killer instincts. It is the rage that affects my work flow and my productivity. Knowing that, I do not use RSS - ever. I have two email accounts. I check one of them twice a day and the other one once. When I'm working, I turn off all reminders and all notifications. I unplug my phone. More extroverted types thrive on injections of outside information. We all have to find our own level of tolerance and adjust the "noise" accordingly.
  • Rarst #

    @kelltic Myself I don't mind interruption itself. But I hate interruption for no good reason, like another spam comment asking to be trashed and such. I think you are missing out with RSS. It is strongly associated with real-time crap but actually there is no rule that it has to update often or update automatically at all. It works just as well in bulk and on-demand.
  • Rush #

    That is so me. Got my little electric train just chugging along in circles in my head. Even the distractions I would want to be notified of produce the grrR reaction. "What!!!! So? Your on fire, does that seem like a logical reason to knock my train of thought off the tracks!!! Moron!" That particular reaction, within myself, is one I have long puzzled over. I do my best to correct it... but...grrR Strangely this reaction seems to be a mild form of the so called "Wife-Kill" reaction, where anyone near you is instantly and absolutely responsible for any mistake you make on the ps3. Yeah... you saw him sitting there. You forgot to reload after the last firefight, only have 4 rounds left in the current mag, but don't notice. As you ran up on him, you KNEW how stupid it was. Still you arrived, reloaded and got knifed, BUT, it is still the fault of anyone near you ESPECIALLY anyone who has been sitting there quiet as a mouse trying not to disturb you. Well documented and perfectly reasonable reaction if you ask me. grrR I didn't mean ask me now, CANT YOU SEE IM WRITING THIS!
  • Rarst #

    @Rush I get a feeling your issues have less to do with technology and more with large family. ;)