Notification Whiplash? 5 Ways to Deal.

Kimberly Shyu
5 min readDec 15, 2021

Chime. Ding. Buzz. We get notifications all day. When it starts to feel overwhelming, take back some control!

In mid November I sat at my desk completely fed up. Everyone always seemed to need something from me. No, I’m not that important. I just get a shitload of notifications everyday, like most of us with smartphones, smart watches, personal email accounts, cell phone numbers, work email accounts, chat & messaging channels, and myriad social media networks. The average U.S. smartphone user receives 46 daily push notifications alone! That doesn’t include emails, texts, chats, and other mediums.

When I’m sitting at the computer I can watch a notification (usually email or chats) come in on three channels: my laptop, my phone, and my watch, usually in that order, milliseconds apart. Chime. Ding. Buzz.

I sat back in my chair. “I’m just going to sit back and wait for the next notification to roll in so I can respond to it.”

Proactive? Bah. Why be proactive when I’m constantly interrupted anyway?

Let’s take an example. The weekend before, I’d started a workout. Great. We’re doing well. Five minutes in, my dog pees on the carpet, then my MIL shows up unexpectedly at the front door while I’m cleaning it up in the basement and, sensing my distress, tries to help me vacuum my front entryway (an area unrelated to the incident). All that did was make me feel like I was being judged for the leaf debris on my front mat. Not gonna lie… I spent my workout thereafter in some mixed delirium of sobs and laughter.

What has the world come to?

I’ll tell you. Everyone wants a piece of you. Sure, you might be a fine, sexy beast. That might be part of it. But more likely than not, you’re like me — and you make yourself too available. To whom, you ask?

  1. Brands. All the brands. Brands everywhere are desperate for you to engage with them. It’s a key metric they track to determine how much people like them, and let’s be honest, it’s on their annual performance goals. There are whole teams of people whose job it is to keep you engaged. “What?! We only had 5% click-through rates on our latest push notification? We’ll have to make the next one even juicier.” Trust that they will find you, they will follow you, and they will poke you when you least expect (or want) it.
  2. Your friends. Ehem. Your… network? I mean, who are your friends, anyway? No, sorry, I’m not implying you have no friends. I’m saying our definition of friendship has morphed into something weird in the last fifteen years. That person on social media you last talked to eight years ago? Is that your friend? Are you wasting your life scrolling and liking these random posts from people you barely know? It’s okay, you don’t have to like this article. I can drink my own medicine. Spend time with your real friends… that means the ones in real life.
  3. Other people in your life. I don’t mean family, because we are certainly beholden to them to a certain degree, unless, of course, your family abuses your availability. I mean other people. Anyone. That shared photo album someone updates everyday, notifying you each time. That social media account that keeps asking you to ‘Tune in’ or watch the latest video. The news, ‘curated for you.’ Everyone who sends you things, like that person you’re chatting with who doesn’t Shift+enter to consolidate their thoughts into a single message and instead sends you seven independent one-line messages. Chime. Ding. Buzz. Chime. Ding. Buzz. Chime. Ding. Buzz. Chime. Ding. Buzz. Chime. Ding. Buzz. Chime. Ding. Buzz. Chime. Ding. Buzz.

Welp… there it is, folks. I’ve gone off the deep end. So, how can you deal with this nonsense?

First, take a deep breath. You are in control of your responses. You are not a robot who must respond to everyone the moment they summon you. You have the power to say, ‘later.’ If you’re not sitting across from someone in real life, they have no right to expect you to drop everything and pay immediate attention to them the moment they seek you. And even if you are IRL, you can still ignore them. That’s rude, though. You should be polite. The world needs kind people.

Here are some ways to deal:

  1. Unsubscribe. It’s at the bottom of all your marketing emails. Don’t be shy. NO, you don’t need to keep receiving emails about that one thing you did once and might one day do again, maybe.
  2. Delete unused apps. For the ones you need to keep, check the settings to only allow critical notifications (not marketing/promo). Check your phone itself to disable weird notifications about news you don’t give a hoot about.
  3. Use ‘Do Not Disturb’ settings on your phone and your chat/messaging programs when you want to focus. It’s unlikely anything will implode while you’re ‘gone’ — er, living a normal life the way humans have lived for eons.
  4. Better yet, disengage with all the chatter at night and focus on things that bring you joy in life on a regular basis. If joy = chatting with people, more power to you. Keep up the good work, you extrovert.
  5. If all else fails, talk to people about your ground rules. Don’t have any? Establish them, then communicate them.

Don’t be whiplashed by notifications. Living with #noregrets starts by learning to drive your life.

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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Kimberly Shyu

Deep Tech Product Leader, creative writer, and published artist. Writes about personal growth, leadership, writing, and product development. www.kimshyu.com.