You might think mindfulness at work is impossible these days. With constant connectivity comes constant interruptions, right?
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many of us never stop to consider that we can control our notifications, settings, and reminders.
Sure, you might change a few things when you get a new phone or download an app. But when was the last time you thought critically about whether they’re really working for you?
In this post, we’ll talk about how you can create a work environment that’s conducive to mindfulness. That includes easy tips, smart tools, and helpful resources to move you from frazzled to calm.
Your coworkers will be asking for your secret, so be sure to share!
Uninstall unnecessary apps from your smartphone
The average smartphone user has more than 80 apps on their phone and uses nearly 40 of them each month.
Leaving aside whether you need that many, you could probably delete half the apps on your phone – and easily reduce the number of unnecessary notifications you receive. Plus, you’ll spend less time swiping through endless icons to find what you need.
Depending on how often you download apps, stay on top of this by doing a quick check every few months. You could do it while you’re waiting in the doctor’s office or when you still have a few minutes at the end of the workday.
Here’s how you can speed up the process of finding and deleting unnecessary apps.
- For an iOS device, go into your Settings, select General, then iPhone Storage. You’ll see a list of all your apps, in order by size. Tap Offload App to unload the app but keep any documents and data (in case you later reinstall the app) or tap Delete App to remove the app and all related data.
- For an Android device, you’ll follow a similar process. From the device settings, tap on Developer options. You’ll see an option for Inactive Apps. This will take you to your full list of apps. Those that haven’t been used in four weeks or more are marked inactive. You can click on them to delete.
Uninstall unwanted apps on your Mac or PC
When you first got your computer, it probably came with a few program trials preinstalled by the manufacturer.
Then they expired and started reminding you (urgently) that you needed to purchase them. Antivirus software, games, and office tools are common culprits.
You might also have some apps that you only needed once. Or maybe you downloaded something and realized it wasn’t what you wanted.
If you’re like most of us, you’re a little leery of deleting apps and programs, not knowing what it will do to the computer’s operating system. Is it critical? Can I restore it? So, understandably, you click away from the reminder and go back to what you were doing.
Until the next time. And the next time.
That’s definitely not conducive to mindfulness at work.
Here’s some expert advice on how to get rid of those annoying reminders for good – and still be confident that your computer will run properly.
- For PC users, check out this step-by-step article from AVG on cleaning up your PC. They also offer a PC Tune-up Software Updater, which checks for the most popular applications and updates to the latest versions.
- For Mac users, Clean My Mac offers a similar tutorial on keeping your Mac clean as well as their own tool, Clean My Mac X.
Going forward, be mindful when clicking through web pages and installation screens.
We often click accept automatically. However, this can allow adware and other distracting software to be installed on our computers.
You almost always have the option of de-selecting such software, so be sure to pause and take that step.
Uninstall unused internet browser extensions
You’re almost finished your technology spring cleaning! Lastly, let’s talk about browser extensions.
While these small software programs can be useful in blocking ads, integrating with other websites, or adding functions to your web experience, they can also be distracting. Especially if they involve frequent pop-ups or notifications.
Fortunately, they’re very easy to uninstall. Computer Hope offers a great resource with instructions on how to disable or uninstall extensions from every major internet browser from Chrome to Firefox to Safari.
In just a few minutes, you can make your internet browsing much more enjoyable – and focus on what you intended to do!
A quick tip – even though we’re talking about removing browser extensions, you might want to add an ad-blocker.
This extension removes distracting ads on all websites. Ad Block Plus is a free, open-source extension that’s easy to turn on or off.
Revisit your notification settings
Now that you’ve reduced your apps down to those you need and use, it’s time to take a closer look at the settings for the apps you have left.
If you’re like most people, you’re getting lots of notifications. Up to 63 in a single day, according to a recent study.
But you’re always in the middle of something, so you swipe it away, vowing to fix it later.
Fortunately, for those who have the latest iOS 12, they’ve introduced a new feature that lets you easily change the settings for notifications in real time when the notification arrives. Users won’t have to change the setting manually in the Settings app.
This is a step in the right direction.
With more pressure from public and private organizations on the negative consequences of smartphone addiction, other developers will certainly follow suit, making it easier to manage your notification settings.
In the meantime, most of us have hundreds of accounts. So it’s best to be strategic. We recommend a four-part approach.
- Focus on the big offenders – Update the settings for the websites, apps, or programs that send the most unnecessary notifications. Do those first to reduce the bulk of your interruptions.
- Reduce duplication – If you use an online tool every day (like Asana or SmartSheets), you should turn off its email notifications unless you absolutely need to be notified right away.
- Update as you use them – Each time you go into an app, if you haven’t looked at the settings recently, check them.
- Choose one device – There’s no need to have your phone and computer ping you when they’re sitting beside each other. See if the app gives you the option to receive text or email notifications – and choose one.
Notifications can really take a toll on your mental health. A Carnegie Mellon University study found that using your smartphone without notifications for just 24 hours can improve your concentration and reduce your stress levels.
But this isn’t the whole story. While participants were able to focus better, they weren’t able to be as responsive as expected, which made people some anxious. In addition, they also felt less connected with their social group.
To balance all these needs, pausing your notifications for specific periods of time is a happy medium. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of uninterrupted work time without feeling like you’re falling behind.
This is the key to mindfulness at work. Being able to focus without that gnawing worry that you’re missing something important.
Luckily, there are easy ways to do this. You can decide which notifications you want to pause.
- Computer – Regardless of whether you use Windows or a Mac, you can pause notifications on your computer. Microsoft calls it Focus Assist (known as Quiet Hours in earlier versions). On your Mac, it’s called Do Not Disturb.
- Smartphone – Just like the tools above, you can pause notifications on your phone. Here are instructions for both Android and iPhone.
- Instant Message – Slack has a Do Not Disturb feature where all notifications and @mentions are paused. Google Hangouts also allows you to mute notifications. However, Slack also offers the option of allowing users to override DND to notify you of urgent messages.
If you feel uncertain, try it for an hour. That way, you won’t feel as tempted to check and make sure you haven’t missed anything.
If you decide to pause all notifications as we described above, this might not be necessary, but you can also pause your email inbox.
Inbox Pause by Boomerang allows you to receive emails automatically on a schedule of your choice. It’s part of an email productivity tool called Boomerang, which is available through Google, Outlook, and iPhone. They have a free plan that includes the inbox pause feature.
This is a good option if you feel anxious about not having notifications. You can set up an auto-responder to let people know when you check messages and how they can reach you in case of an emergency.
Unsubscribe from junk email
If the size of your inbox makes you want to pause your emails forever, we understand. But we’ve got another great tool for that.
It’s called UnRoll.me. No more scrolling down to the bottom of every unwanted email and clicking the unsubscribe button.
Instead, once you connect to UnRoll.me, you’ll see a list of every email subscription you have. Simply click to unsubscribe. These emails will never hit your inbox. They’ll go straight to a sub-folder, where they’re safely saved.
Even better, for the email subscriptions you want to receive, you can cluster them into digests. So, for example, you can create a monthly digest of all email newsletters from your professional associations. Or a weekly digest of Linkedin notifications.
It’s all in your control.
Create a more mindful workday
Although it takes some time and patience to set up, these tips and tricks can make your life so much better and not just at work.
By purposefully managing your technology notifications, mindfulness at work is possible.