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Enhance productivity by disabling some alerts

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Mobile devices were supposed to free us up to reach whole new levels of productivity -- the anytime, anywhere mantra -- but the reality is that we've become slaves to our devices, and productivity is at risk. Here's a small tweak you can make to your phone to poise yourself for success.

Gabe Weinberg, founder of the alternative search engine DuckDuckGo, cautions us to be more selective with the virtually limitless field of notifications our phones are capable of sounding. Specifically, he says:

"The problem is that can add up to a lot of alerts. What I've taken away from this is to ditch all alerts that aren't actionable. If I'm never going to act as a result of a given alert than it shouldn't be an alert at all."

That makes a lot of sense. I know from personal experience that I waste a lot of time throughout the work day (and personal time) glancing at mail when a new message arrives, only to find that it's some sort of network notification for an office I don't even work in. It's only a moment here or there, but studies show that it can take you more than a minute to get focused again after an interruption.

So what can you do? Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Unsubscribe yourself from information-only email and text notifications that you rarely, if ever, need to know about, but have personal control over.
  • Talk to your manager or IT folks about dramatically revising the membership of various default notification aliases that you have no choice but to be a member of, but which has no impact on your job.
  • Reconsider personal and entertainment alerts. Do you really need to see ever "want to buy" email alert for local concert tickets?
  • Increase the time between email checks so you only get pinged hourly, perhaps, instead of every 15 minutes when new email arrives.