You may not even realize it, but your cell phone is hijacking your brain. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Your phone steals your attention in all sorts of subtle ways. And this has surprising consequences for your mood, your relationships, and your productivity. So today, I’m sharing the ridiculously simple and easy technology hack that your brain is begging you to make. Don’t skip ahead; don’t click away. Your brain needs this!
Did you know that cell phones are addictive? It’s true. In fact, cell phones are designed to be that way. (See the surprising and scary proof here.)
Cell phones are designed to constantly send stimuli. Alerts, notifications, sounds, bells, buzzers, reminders. They’re all designed to grab your attention and get you to respond. Imagine someone standing across the room from you, waving a giant red flag, in hopes of getting your attention. That’s what cell phones do. They send stimuli. Your brain, on the other hand, is designed to respond to stimuli. And with incredible sensitivity. Your brain is wired to notice what’s going on, take in stimuli, and then respond accordingly. So this combo, a thing that’s designed to produce stimuli and a thing that’s designed to respond to stimuli? It’s powerful. But it’s also problematic, especially when left unchecked.
One of the biggest ways your cell phone sends stimuli? Notifications. Red bubbles. Banners. Badges. Beeps. Your phone has all sorts of options for telling you, “Hey pay attention!” So today, I’m asking you to try a technology hack. A hack that your brain is begging you to make. Turn off your cell phone’s notifications. Sound scary? Here’s the rationale. Every time you get a notification, your brain responds. Your attention shifts, your focuses changes, and your mind follows. In those moments, you’re not telling your attention where to go. The notification is telling your attention where to go.
At this point, you might think this is an anti-technology video. It’s not. Not at all. This is a pro-you video. Pro your attention. Pro your mood. And pro your focus. Your cognitive resources are limited. You only have a certain amount each day. And I want you to be in control of your resources. I want you, not your phone, to decide when your attention shifts.
Now to be more specific, you don’t have to turn off all notifications. Just notifications that aren’t signaling in the moment contact from a real life human. So if it’s a notification that signals, “Right now a real human is trying to contact you,” you can leave the bubbles and banners on. This is limited, encompassing phone calls, texts, and maybe a messaging app. But outside of those, turn off notifications.
You might be thinking that turning off cell phone notifications can’t possibly make that big of a difference. It can. And it does. Because when you turn off notifications, you choose when your attention shifts. So now, when you check Instagram, it’s because your brain made the decision. When you check ESPN, it’s because your brain decided that it wanted to see the score. By turning off notifications, you’re choosing where you attention goes. An app, a phone, and a red bubble aren’t choosing for you.
I know this will be hard for most people. In fact, it’ll probably cause a little bit of anxiety. Which is normal when you think about doing something different. For this reason, I’m not asking for a long-term commitment. I’m asking that you try this no notification experiment for two weeks. Just two weeks. See what happens. Notice the difference it makes. And get some practice having more say in where and when your attention goes.
Your brainpower is a precious and limited resource. You’ve only got so much each day. So why are you giving it away to a device, an app, and a tiny red bubble? Fight harder to have a say in where your brainpower goes. So right now, commit to a two-week experiment. Grab your phone, open up the notifications section, and start clicking “off” for the majority of your apps. Not a real human? Off. Not an actual phone call? Off. Not a text? Off.
Your cell phone is designed to produce stimuli. And your brain is designed to respond. So give your brain a break. Cut down on the stimuli, and turn off your notifications. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!
PS: Want another productivity hack that can seriously change your life? Check out this video; it’s got a gamechanging tip!