Do you find it hard to remain focused and mindful in the face of a constant barrage of interruptions from your devices: smartphone ringing, email notifications blinking, text messages chirping? Fortunately there are a variety of ways to configure your devices to limit when, where, and how they interrupt you.
All three of the major smartphone operating systems include features that enable you to control when your devices interrupt you:
- Apple iOS “Do Not Disturb“: Even though this feature has been around for a few years, many people still don’t seem to know about it. Do Not Disturb lets you flip a switch to turn off notifications from all of your apps (including the Phone, Mail, and Messages apps) until you flip the switch again. You can also set Do Not Disturb to turn on and off automatically on a schedule. Furthermore, you can tell Do Not Disturb to allow notifications from your spouse, boss, or other VIP even while Do Not Disturb is on.
- Microsoft Windows “Quiet Hours”: This feature, which is part of Cortana, is similar to Apple’s Do Not Disturb. It also enables your device to send an automatic reply to let people know that you’re not available.
- Google Android “Interruptions”: The newest of the three, Google’s Interruptions might be the most powerful, since you can configure it to allow notifications to appear only during certain times, for certain types of notifications, and from specific contacts.
If you’re feeling that you can’t get a break from smartphone interruptions, then try out these built-in anti-interruption features.
Although some might argue that it would be better to learn how not to be distracted by interruptions than to block those interruptions using technology, I don’t see these two approaches as inconsistent. We can train ourselves, through practices like meditation, to remain mindful in the face of interruptions and consciously limit when we are interrupted during those times when we need to stay particularly focused. Much as a mindfulness retreat will provide a serene and relatively silent environment in which its participants can practice mindfulness, technology tools that block interruptions can provide us with a mini-retreat from technological interruptions.