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FOMO vs info: managing notification overload

Learn how to set alerts so you (and your team) can save time, stay informed, and get more great work done every day.

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Getting in touch with people has never been easier. Simply whip out your mobile, and you have seemingly endless opportunities to give and get likes, comments, and messages from your friends, family, and coworkers instantly. The more we work at a distance – remote, hybrid, distributed, traveling, home with a sick kid, or answering an email on a coffee run – the more we seek out ways to stay connected. That’s how work gets done right and great ideas are born.

While managing communication between cross-functional teams is critical for knowledge sharing, it’s not always efficient or effective. At the crux of modern communication management, we now find a tiny sound or icon is often calling the shots as we go from this notification to that alert, emerging later to find a chunk of the day gone. 

As the business environment evolves with new ways of working and entirely new job descriptions, managing how we send and receive communications is an ever-changing field. The number and variety of platforms we use to communicate – both personally and professionally – continues to grow. We can let tools manage us or choose how to manage them. Obviously one of those options is smarter.

We can let tools manage us or choose how to manage them. Obviously one of those options is smarter.

However, with devices always at our fingertips, it’s becoming more and more difficult to set boundaries with others and with ourselves when it comes to notifications. On the one hand, you don’t want to miss out when something truly important happens. On the other, the constant bombardment can keep you from focusing on the work that really matters. 

So, how do you strike the right balance between informed and overwhelmed?

The zing behind the ping

For most of us, notifications have become an essential evil. Whether we like it or not, notifications represent something that requires our attention. But as we find more ways to communicate important information back and forth – and as people figure out the appropriate ways to use those platforms – the number of notifications we get on a daily basis has skyrocketed to almost unmanageable levels.

It seems that notifications have gotten out of control – and they’re getting worse. Paradoxically, while notifications might have the pretense of increasing productivity, they’re actually shown to stifle creativity and keep businesses from getting top results with employees too distracted by the constant pings, dings, and rings to focus.

Yet, we still do it. That’s because checking your phone produces a reward loop in your brain, which compels you to do it over and over again. Clearly, this particular reward loop is doing its job well, as the average person checks their phone up to 150 times a day! 

Of course phones aren’t the only culprits, but they are so enticing! Notifications come in over Slack, email, apps, or it could be a paper airplane message landing on your desk. No matter the format, checking a notification requires context switching – jumping from one task to another – a habit that damages productivity and leaves you ripe for making mistakes. In fact, it can take as long as half an hour to get back into focus mode after checking a notification. Now multiply that by those 150 times you might check your phone or get interrupted by an alert, and you can see how the day can slip through your fingers.

It can take as long as half an hour to get back into focus mode after checking a notification.

Unfortunately, you can’t just toss your phone and move to a deserted island. And most of us can’t heed the advice to check notifications at set times during the day. You need something more realistic. 

Getting yourself out of notification purgatory requires some strategic planning. But after all, notifications are meant to make your life easier, not more difficult.  And that’s exactly the idea that will help you wrangle them.

Take control of your notifications

When it comes down to it, you need to fight the fear of missing out (FOMO) so you can focus. Because, honestly, how often do you really need that notification right now? Unless you’re a first responder, it can probably wait. 

Here are some ways you can empower yourself to manage interruptions by managing your notifications with Confluence:

Tip #1: Pick an “urgent” platform

Let’s say you’re working on a project with a large team, and every time someone makes a change to a page, you get an alert. At a certain point, you start ignoring all of them so you can finish your work. Then you’re likely to miss out on an important update and feel like you can never skip a ping. 

The fix starts by creating a communication plan with your team. Agree to use a specific platform if it’s really urgent – whether it’s Slack DMs, SMS text messaging on your phone, or something else. Use that communication method only for notifications that require your immediate attention. Then you can skip paying attention to other platforms until you’re ready to check in. It becomes a conscious decision. Now, you’ll probably plow through your work faster because you can focus and because you’ll really want to finish and get back to checking your notifications (hello, reward loop)!

Confluence tip: For urgent alerts or communication with specific individuals, try @ mentions in Confluence. Every @ mention sends a notification directly to only the person/people you tagged, not to everyone watching the page. That’s a good way to get someone’s attention. Better yet, they’re in context with the relevant information on the page. That way, the person you’re notifying doesn’t have to hunt to get everything they need to know to respond.

Tip #2: Set boundaries

After you agree on how to reach each other when it’s truly urgent, you and your colleagues can relax and focus, knowing you’ll get the alerts you need and other notifications can wait. And then, it happens: Someone starts using the “urgent” platform for things that aren’t urgent. You need to set standards about what’s urgent.

You may not all agree, but as long as you clearly define boundaries, you can ask your colleagues to respect them. And, if you’re unsure about someone else’s notification preferences, you can always ask. 

Better yet, get your team to set up user manuals, which take out all the guesswork.  

Confluence tip: With Confluence, you can turn off most of your notifications and still stay informed. All your colleagues’ comments will be on the page when you find time to review it. And if you’re also using Jira, updates on Jira tickets will also be there on the page and in your feed.

Tip #3: Adjust settings to match your needs

For some jobs, you may still get too many notifications, even after those two steps. As a manager of a large team or a project manager, for example, you might need to be ultra-informed all day. That’s when settings become your best ally. In any platform that’s overwhelming you with alerts,you’ll generally find ways to customize notifications with filters, batching, and other ways to quiet the pings just a bit. Look for ways to emphasize the alerts coming from your boss or mark a hot project as “important.” Spend a few minutes exploring the settings in your busiest communications platforms and you could save yourself hours of distraction and context switching. 

Confluence tips: In Confluence, there are several ways to customize notifications. Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • “Publish without notifying watchers” when you’re making lots of updates to a page to avoid spamming colleagues. 
  • Choose “only show unread” to easily filter relevant notifications from the noise. 
  • You can also choose to batch notifications. You’ll still get immediate emails for important notifications like @ mentions and new pages, but when a lot of changes are made within a ten-minute timeframe, you’ll only receive a single email. 
  • For even fewer notifications, you can opt for a daily digest to ensure you stay up to date with all of the day’s important information in a single email. 
  • Or, set all your Confluence notifications to go to a separate Slack channel, and you can filter them to ensure that your team only receives the most important updates. 
Time sensitive ticket

Personalized for productivity

However you decide to get your notifications, you should manage them rather than having them manage your day. These Confluence tips give you the power to decide between immediate notifications, batched email updates every ten minutes, daily digest emails, or nothing at all! 

With increased control over alerts, you’ll finally have the freedom to walk away from the firehose, focus on the work you need, and return when you’re ready with the peace of mind that you’re seeing the really important stuff. As for the ones that can wait, they aren’t going anywhere. They’ll all be there when you have time for them – and now you’ll actually get to them faster because you’ll get your work done more quickly.

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