Notification Nerves — How to Overcome Communication Overload

Is all of the communication driving you crazy? Control notifications and manage stress by following these 5 tips!

In 2018, Wrike conducted a survey where 68% in the US reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress on the job. Work can be stressful in a variety of ways but I find that communication overload (notifications, especially!) is the leading culprit. As much as I love that I can check my work email from my phone, I hate that I can get a work email on my phone at all hours of the day.

Anyone else roll their eyes when you’re trying to go to sleep and that notification ding goes off?

Technology has made employees more accessible than ever before. It used to be that if you are not at the office, you aren’t working. Today, work is accessible from anywhere/anytime, and there is barely any separation between professional life and personal life. One of the biggest hurdles to work-life balance is creating mental distance.

In fact, there is one specific aspect of working in the digital age that prevents me from ever truly checking out… You know what I’m talking about… A ring, beep, or chime will have me rushing like a speed racer because I feel obligated to respond in a matter of seconds.  Sometimes I even wake up paranoid that I’ve missed an email or a Slack notification. So what is the answer? Here are 5 tips to help you keep your cool when the level of communication becomes overwhelming.

Tip #1: Set Your Notification Preferences

Notification, Hardly

In 2017, an RSNA study on smartphone addiction found that notifications can create an imbalance in your brain, higher levels of anxiety, and cause a pattern called ‘switch cost’: when an interruption, such as a notification, distracts our attention from a task we were working on to view the notification. You take more time to complete the original task, which leads to repetitive behavior, time lost, and inefficiency.

Most apps automatically want you to be more engaged, so they provide notifications for everything. When I joined Hardly, notifications were blowing up my phone all night and during meetings at my other job. I was getting notified for everything! It wasn’t until later I discovered there was a way to only be alerted if a task was assigned to me specifically. When I made that small change, it was like a cold drink of water on a scorching hot day: relief! I was no longer bombarded with flashing lights during the night! If I did hear a ding, I knew it was important and worth my time to stop what I was doing and have a look.

Prevent notifications from interrupting deep work or killing your happy hour vibes. Take the time to adjust your alerts. It makes all the difference for your own mental and emotional wellbeing.

Tip #2: Set Expectations Appropriately

Notification, Hardly

Why do we feel so pressed to keep checking our email and messaging platforms? The key here is to set communication expectations. If your boss, coworkers, and clients know that you will get back to them within a reasonable time frame, they won’t expect an immediate response. Remember, unless you work in the ER, whatever they need is rarely urgent. Most coworkers understand that you do not work 24/7— you need to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom. However, if you set a precedent of responding immediately every time, they will be disappointed when you do not. Instead, inform others that you will respond to emails within 24-48 hours, and if they have a time-sensitive request they can call your phone directly.

Tip #3: Turn off Social Media Notifications

Notification, Hardly

There are enough pings during the workday; you don’t need to attract even more by having your personal notifications blowing up too! Turning off your social media notifications will help you stay focused on work and allow you to prioritize communication with colleagues rather than feeling like you have to attend to friends too. At first, you might have some FOMO. Eventually, you’ll love the peace and lack of social media harassment. 

Tip #4: Limit Your Communication Channels

Notification, Hardly

Every day there are new platforms to manage workflow. Companies get excited about trying them out to increase productivity, streamline project management, and stay abreast of new technological advancements; however, if they are only adding new forms of communication without getting rid of others, it can feel like your inbox is under attack.  It is up to you and your team to figure out which communication platforms to narrow down to and what triggers a notification. In addition, don’t forget that phone calls still exist. Oftentimes, it is the email back and forth that becomes overwhelming, which can be avoided by talking on the phone. Just because we are in a digital world, doesn’t mean we can resort to an old-fashion phone call.

Tip #5: Shutdown the Computer and Self-Isolate

Notification, Hardly

Last but not least, the antidote to communication overload is communication detox. Set aside certain times when you are going to completely unplug— no notifications! It is so important to cut off all communication, even if it is only for an hour or two a day. Set up an automatic email response: “I am gone for the day” and turn your phone on silent. With practice, it will feel liberating and you will be able to be truly present away from work.  

Or, download the Hardly app!

If you can’t avoid the communication craziness, at least tone it down! Our app helps you customize the notifications you want to receive and when. And it’s easy to set up!

Want to learn more about the people behind the app? Check out our team.

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