Deprogramming my Pavlovian Notification Conditioning

April 14, 2013

Executing a successful startup strategy requires an incredible amount of mental focus and concentrated problem solving.  With today’s technological distractions it can seem impossible to spend more than five minutes intently focusing on anything without phone, Skype, text, email, Facebook or twitter notification.  It’s amazing that anything of value actually gets done with so much incoming stimuli.

I recognize now that over time I have conditioned myself to be in pure reactive mode much of the day.  Not unlike Pavlov’s dog, when I get a notification regardless of what I am doing, I have been immediately refocusing at least a portion of my capacity on either tending to the stimuli or at least recognizing it as an extra line item on my todo list.  I have come to realize that this is not healthy, nor is this reactive relationship with my notifications in line with the personal and professional goals I have for this year and beyond.

The past week I took the small step of turning off my desktop email notifications.  With an average of 50-65 substantive emails each day, this has been a real challenge.  I still think that I check my email too frequently but I am committing to batch the emails into 4 email response sessions daily beginning Monday (eventually I would like to get this down to 2).  I haven’t tackled my other notifications yet as I want to get a handle on the largest culprit first.

We all know the efficiency benefits of “batching” our daily tasks, but the concept is much harder to create a habit around when we are conditioned to be reactive.  Our devices can be an amazing tool for efficiency, but if these devices begin dictating our actions in a reactive way it turns from help to hinderance.  This is the first step I am taking to free myself from this unhealthy reactive relationship and if you know me, you know it is going to be a challenge.  I’m ready for it.  Wish me luck!

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