How to control your notifications and stay sane

In today’s world, sometimes it’s tough to tell who’s in charge: you or your digital tools. To ensure you don’t miss anything, many cloud apps automatically generate reminders that pop up on your screen. If you forgot about a meeting that’s starting in fifteen minutes, these notifications are really helpful. But if you’re interrupted from important work by a coworker’s commentary on their latest episode of TV binge, not so much.

Notifications should help you stay up to date and connected to your coworkers without preventing you from getting work done. If instead they’re just jerking you from one conversation to the next, it may be time to make some adjustments.

Where do I go to edit or turn off notifications?

Your device, whether a PC, a phone, or a tablet, allows you to control how notifications are displayed and which apps have permission to send notifications. For example, MacOS, iPhone, Android, and Windows 10, give you options to allow sound and badges or to choose whether to display notifications on the lock screen among other options.

Microsoft Notifications & actions

Apple Notifications    

Find the notification center in different operating systems:

  • Manage notifications Windows 10: Select Start > Settings > System > Notifications & actions
  • Manage notifications MacOS: Select Apple menu > System Preferences > Notifications
  • Manage notifications Android: Select your phone’s Settings app > Apps & Notifications>

Now, you may be tempted to turn all your notifications off, especially if you’ve had an unproductive day, but be careful. You don’t want to risk missing a meeting or an important message from a client. Consider tailoring your notifications for your individual circumstances.

How do I customize notifications?

You may be someone who gets more done listening to music. Or maybe that would be a productivity nightmare. The chatter of coworkers on a communication channel might help you feel less isolated in your home office. Or perhaps it drives you mad. And, depending on how your work or mood shifts throughout the day, week, or year, your ideal work environment can change.

Whether you need absolute quiet or prefer a livelier environment, use the following settings to adjust notifications to match your workstyle:

  • Establish a “do not disturb” timeframe: Block all notifications except priority ones during the hours that you need to focus.
  • Prioritize specific apps: Choose which apps should send alerts during focused work time.
  • Prioritize specific people: Ensure messages from certain people, such as your boss or a client, pop up during your “do not disturb” timeframe.
  • Manage alerts during downtime: Limit or block notifications when you’re playing a game or mirroring to a TV screen.

Microsoft Focus assist settings

Apple Do Not Disturb settings

Manage notifications in different operating systems:

  • Windows 10: Select Start > Settings > System > Notifications & actions > Focus assist
  • MacOS: Select Apple menu > System Preferences > Notifications > Do Not Disturb
  • Android: Select your phone’s Settings app > Apps & Notifications>

How do I take charge of notifications from chat and email?

Your most useful—and potentially most distracting—notifications are the ones that help you stay connected with coworkers, clients, and partners. Whether it’s an upcoming meeting, a chat from a coworker or an email from a client, notifications help you remain responsive and available to the people that count on you.

But being responsive doesn’t have to mean “drop everything right now”, especially if you’re focused on high priority work. Not all chats or emails are work critical. To help you stay organized and focused, adjust notifications and alerts to fit your needs.

Most email and calendaring programs provide tools to:

  • Customize email alerts: Choose whether to play a sound, display an icon in the toolbar, change your cursor pointer, or receive a desktop alert when you receive an email, or turn of all notifications.
  • Set default meeting reminders: Determine how soon before a meeting start time you’d like to be reminded.

To manage notifications in Outlook: Open Outlook > Select File > Options > Mail or Calendar

There are several ways to keep chats and channels more manageable, such as:

  • Turn notification sounds on or off.
  • Customize channel notifications: Decide whether you want to be notified of all activity in a channel, only when you are mentioned, or only when someone replies to your comment, among other scenarios.
  • Choose where notification appear: Determine what types of notifications should only appear in the app and which should also show up as a banner.

Microsoft Teams Notifications

To manage notifications in Microsoft Teams: Open Teams > Select More [three horizontal dots next to your profile] > Settings > Notifications

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What should I do to reduce distraction in my browser?

Notifications don’t just pop up on your desktop, you may also get alerts in your browser. For example, a meeting reminder might pop up in your browser while you’re doing an online search. Typically, a site will ask for permission before sending alerts, but if you’ve unintentionally authorized browser notifications from a site or changed your mind, you can update permissions with the following customizations:

  • Allow or block websites from asking for permission to send notifications
  • Allow or block notifications from a specific website
  • Change how a notification looks or sounds.
  • Allow or block digital assistants from making suggestions via your browser.

Instructions for managing notifications in different browsers:

  • Microsoft Edge: Open Microsoft Edge > Select More [three horizontal dots] > Settings > Cookies and site permissions > Notifications under All Permissions
  • Safari: Open Safari > Select System Preferences > Notifications > Websites
  • Chrome: Open Chrome > Select More [three vertical dots] > Settings > Privacy and Security > Site Settings > Notifications

How do I know if I got it right?

It may take a few adjustments to get your notifications optimized for you. If you find yourself confused about what’s happening on a project or missing some of the “water cooler talk,” reconsider your notification settings. You’ll know you’ve adjusted the dials correctly when you’ve improved your ability to stay focused without missing important communications and meetings.

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