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Using Eisenhower’s Productivity Matrix For Notifications

When Ike Eisenhower was president, a reporter asked him how he managed to juggle everything he was doing. “It’s easy” said the President.

“When I’m not sure what to focus on I draw out this little grid dividing tasks into import and urgent, urgent and unimportant, important and not urgent and neither urgent nor important. Then I tackle the first quadrant first. Plan the second quadrant, delegate tasks in the third quadrant and ignore the final quadrant.”

It’s a simple and basic system that is a cornerstone for many peoples productivity but I wonder if we can apply Eisenhower’s productivity matrix for notifications on our devices?

Applying Eisenhower’s Productivity Matrix for Notifications

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Many people are suffering from notification overload. We don’t just get a few handy and timely notifications everyday, we get a shed load of random unimportant ones. If you have your email account linked to your iPhone then you’ll have probably experienced the annoyance of getting a ping only to find out it is some spam or worse, a game telling you have the “opportunity” to buy in app purchases at a discount [lucky you!].

What if we organise our notifications into these quadrants and then keep the relevant and useful ones coming to us. Here are some ideas on how you can apply this idea today.

Work out Which Apps don’t Give you Important and Urgent Notifications

Many apps don’t give you important notifications. I’m going to group every game into this category (I challenge you to find an exception to this). But even social media and “productivity” apps will send non important or urgent items. Luckily, you can easily disable notification from apps to help limit yourself to important and urgent updates. The better apps will also let you choose which notifications they send (or don’t send) to you.

Gmail and Priority Inbox

Gmail introduced a great feature called “priority inbox”. Not only did this separate your mail into different types of emails (hiding spam and automated messages from more personal messages) but it also reduces your notifications to only your priority inbox. This cuts out much of the annoying emails that notify you, pushing you towards more urgent and important messages.

Have a Personal Email Address

An alternative is to use separate email addresses. One for signup lists and services, one for work and a personal list. It can be annoying to log into different accounts but if you set up processing times for other groups with others which are logged in via different apps then you will block out a lot of noise.

Set Specific Processing Times

Setting specific times for working through certain notifications will help you keep up to date on important but not urgent notifications. Of course, the reason many people don’t do this but a big one is not developing the habit of checking notifications at specific times. Notifications are simpler than having to set aside a specific time to work through a group, but guess what. Generally, you are more productive when you focus on one tasks and work through it.

Use Flight Mode/do not Disturb Mode

If there is something really important going on around you then you don’t want any distractions. Honestly, flight mode maybe one of the greatest features introduced into smart devices. It allows us to keep the functions such as watches and notebooks that smart devices have in many cases replaced and yet willingly and conscientiously take time out from the barage of noise around us. Make ample use of your flight mode to take breaks from notifications and focus on what is around you.

What If…

At some point, when thinking or putting these ideas into action you are sure to come across some ”what ifs” that will try to stop you from reducing your notifications so let’s tackle them now.

Someone sends me an important and urgent message via another channel

This may happen but it’s pretty unlike to occur if you train people well. If something is truly important and urgent then you will probably find out about it anyway (and it’s unlikely to come from your Vine app). Also you might want to consider having one way that anyone can contact you and letting that trickle through. Make it known to the people who need to be able to contact you that they can use this channel.

Be okay with missing out

With all the amazing things going on in the world, we can’t take part in them all. In fact, if you try to take part in them all you will just reinforce the point that you are going to miss out. The only thing you can do is accept that this is going to happen. Sometimes you will find a notification too late and miss out on an opportunity but hey, it happens.

Automation

I’m a novice at automation but when it is done right it will reduce your workload and stress. When it comes to notification automation isn’t going to help you too much but there are some ways it can help. Dealing with minor tasks that have to happen everyday. If you can set up a system where certain issues are just dealt with in the background (like photo management ensuring your photos don’t take up too much space) then you may not get certain notifications.

Delegate

For things that are urgent but not important it can be really good to delegate. Of course, not all of us can afford a personal assistant (especially for every area of our lives!) but for some people this is a valid option. Look at delegating certain management tasks and remove those notifications from your life.

Future Improvements

There is a great opportunity for Apple or a third party to capitalise here and we are seeing companies like Facebook move away from the constant stream of the latest data to favouring the “best” data. Here are a couple of features that could improve this area.

1. Ai Notification Management

Ai has come a long way in terms of the “value” of data. An in device AI that can priorities and organise data into different quadrants for either immediate or later processing would win many friends.

There’s no reason why Apple could enhance it’s notification centre further and reduce it’s perception of being a “distraction centre” as Dave Caolo and Patrick Rhone call it.

2. Alternative Notification Profiles.

An alternative (or supplement) might be to create alternative notification profiles. We sort of have this already with automatic do not disturb mode but we could go further. If there was a setting which could determine your location and know if you are at work or home and then automagically switch to a notification profile.

These profiles could disable/enable notifications for different apps, or accounts preventing that annoying guy at work, who sends you a task as soon as you head home, from disturbing your time off.

How do you manage your notifications?

Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

About Chris Wilson

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