How can I overcome notification paralysis?

In the first part of this series, I will talk about notification paralysis.
We all suffer from it from time to time, you are taken into the momentum of the day.
The last thing you have time for are the red dots that hang above your apps.
Your phone rings, apps come in, Teams messages.
Not to mention apps that generate notifications that do not add anything to your productivity.
It also impacts your social availability to people around you.

I am going to talk about steps that will help you bring more order to your phone.

Why do apps send me notifications about useless stuff?

Apps that are advertising-based (think about Facebook and YouTube), are continuously trying to pull you into their app, because every time you open the app and see an advertisement, their revenue goes up.
It is that simple.

Apps you pay for are less likely to try to focus your attention on other things than their service (like advertisements), because it’s already paid for.
They are only sending notifications about things that interest you, because they want you to renew their service and the app not to be annoying to you.
It’s a different businessmodel.

There definitely are examples of apps you both pay for, but still try to gain your attention, but these still have advertisements, just less obvious ones.
Also, sometimes you don’t pay for the app to be advertising-free, but just for the functionality.
An example of this is LinkedIn Premium.

Be selective

To make sure I do not get notifications from apps I am not interested in, I categorize apps into the following categories:

  • Apps that can send me instant notifications
  • Apps that interest me, but that can send me notifications a maximum of two times a day
  • Apps that I use when I need them, but that are not allowed to send notifications

By default, every app falls into the category of apps that I use when I need them, but that are not allowed to send notifications.

So how do you assess this?

In general, apps that are allowed to send me notifications directly are apps that are time dependent.
These are messaging apps like WhatsApp, but also apps like my car’s, so I know when my car alarm goes off.

Apps that interest me are apps like LinkedIn, my favorite news app, but also my podcast app which notifies me when there are new episodes of my favorite podcast.
I have delayed notifications for these apps twice a day, one time before work and one time afterwards.

Apps that I use when I need them but are not allowed to send notifications are apps from, for example, my regular supermarket.
I get notifications every day that I have offers ready, but this only makes me go shopping on days when I do not need anything.
This is one of many examples.

How do you do this?

Every app on an iPhone has its own notification settings.
When you set up delayed notifications for your first app, it will make you set it up so you can use it for every next app you want to use this for.

It will ask for things like:

  • Do you still want notification badges throughout the day, even when you didn’t get the notifications itself (don’t recommend that, you’ll get curious)?
  • Do you want the block of delayed notifications visible throughout the day (don’t see the added value there, you know why?)
  • When do you want the delayed notifications to arrive?

But I have adaptive wishes and requirements for notifications throughout the day

This is very recognizable, when I am at work, I need Outlook, my Teams app and whatsapp.
I do not need other distracting things like Facebook Messenger at such a time.

When I am at home, I do not want to get notifications from work all evening, then my Outlook app is also on silent.
That is not to say I do not open the apps in question during the evening, but only when I feel like it and have time.

For this you can use focus profiles, which you can automatically switch on when you arrive at work.
You’ll also have different notifications settings in this profile, which can come in handy.

If you work in various locations, it may be useful to set this based on the day and time.


As I mentioned earlier, you can, for example, set which focus profile to choose based on your location or day/time.
Yet you can set it much more automatically than that.
For example, you can set that when your focus profile “work” is enabled, your volume is adjusted automatically, or even that a file keeps track of what time you arrived at work.

How do I set this up?

In the coming period there will be tutorials on my blog, to tell you more about this.

What is next

Next time, I will elaborate on limiting app usage.

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