I recently made a change to my notification settings on my iPhone that seemed crazy at first, but it’s made me incredibly happy.

I turned off all sounds and vibrations. All of them.

Then, I shut off banners, badges, and lock screen notifications. After I quieted everything, I re-enabled a few necessary notifications, but I was very circumspect about what would be allowed to get my attention.

  • Messages can still display lock screen notifications and badge counts.
  • Work-related emails and emails from VIP contacts still appear on my lock screen. All email generates a badge count.
  • New Relic notifications can still generate sounds so that I’ll know if a client’s site goes down or throws an error.
  • Tweetbot and Riposte are also allowed lock screen access and badges.
  • Dark Sky can generate sounds and display things on the lock screen; it rains a lot here.

Most every other app has its notifications disabled.

Important notifications still reach me, but I only see them when my phone’s screen is visible. As it turns out, it’s visible a lot. I’m either using it, or its on a flat surface with the screen in sight.

Conveniently, times that I don’t need to see notifications coincide with times when my phone is in my pocket or on my nightstand charging. When I need to focus during the day, I put it away.

It’s a pretty simple arrangement. It might not work for everyone, but it’s been great for me. No more distracting buzzes, no more interrupted dinners.

It’s a pain in the ass to set up because of how fiddly the notification settings are, but the effort is worth it.

Oh, and a note about banner notifications: for apps that also show badges, I’ve found banners to be pointless. If I need to respond to something–particularly an email–I’ll see the badge or the lock screen notification. Few things are so important that they can’t wait a few minutes until I return to the home screen.

The most important part of this has been being honest with myself about what is and isn’t critically important and realizing that, honestly, very little is.