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Does this sound familiar?
I left my phone for five minutes and now I have 12 unread emails, five new text messages, a few DMs on a few different social media apps, a couple of messages on Slack, and some alerts from my CRM. Oh, and I just got an email from the title company that I need to log into their portal for something. Here come some notifications from another app … I’m not sure what this one even does.
If this sounds like your day-to-day, you may be suffering from the side effects of our increasingly connected, tech-driven and productivity-oriented world. Whether you call it digital exhaustion, tech overload, collaboration overwhelm, notification fatigue or any variation thereof, these ailments are plaguing much of the professional world and our lives in general.
In fact, researchers have found that workers toggled between apps and websites nearly 1,200 times a day. That’s a lot of time and a lot of apps.
So what’s one to do when the technology that’s supposed to give us time back just drains it from somewhere else? When the tools designed to increase our productivity have us chasing our own tails instead? When your livelihood demands a computer and a phone, but a screen is the last thing you want to look at?
Although there isn’t much by way of a silver bullet when it comes to fighting this battle, there are several remedies you can use to treat these ailments:
It’s not much of a secret that tech companies want you in their app and engaging with their platform as often as possible. This is especially the case for ad-revenue-driven technologies, like social media apps, but it’s also true for most business software as well.
The more you use the tech, the more likely you are to keep paying for it. There’s usually a significant amount of thought and effort that goes into finding ways to keep you engaged (or “keeping the app sticky”) as some in the tech world call it.
To that end, most apps will set their default notification settings to “as many as possible.” They’ll often phrase notification text in a way that amplifies the urgency or is intended to create FOMO (fear of missing out). The end result of this, however, is often notification fatigue.
This can manifest as getting so many notifications, you begin to ignore the important ones, or you’re constantly distracted from the things that actually matter.
You can fight back by curating your notifications and turning off anything other than the most important ones. Depending on the app, you may be able to get away with turning them all off. This takes a bit of time upfront, as you have to go into the various apps you use and manually adjust the settings, but it can pay dividends in terms of avoiding distractions and minimizing interruptions.
It can feel nerve-wracking to take the plunge on this. The concern that something important may be missed when it comes to your business tools is not one without merit. One way to get around this is to designate a “911 channel” with your team, clients, etc.
Establishing a single channel they should use for urgent communications (text, phone, etc.) and communicating that expectation can provide comfort that critical items will still make it to you on time.
Time-blocking is a productivity method that continues to gain popularity, even going viral on TikTok in 2021. It’s the concept of assigning dedicated time on your calendar for certain tasks, as opposed to relying on a to-do list.
In that same vein, tech can be made more manageable by using time blocks to engage with it. Examples include setting aside a few times per day to check email or carving out a block of time for CRM activities or social media.
This approach can work hand-in-hand with notification minimization, as there is allocated time in the day to check your apps, reducing the need for real-time notifications. Ultimately, it’s letting your schedule for the day control tech instead of your tech controlling the day.
Later isn’t always a bad thing
“There’s no time like the present.”
“If you don’t do it now, it’ll never get done.”
“Procrastination is the thief of time.”
We all have probably heard expressions like this and may even be guilty of using them ourselves. Much of the messaging in society and the professional world is centered on getting things done as quickly as possible and in real-time. This is especially the case in the real estate industry where concepts like “speed to lead” still remain king.
That said, it’s not always a bad thing to come back to something later. Trying to respond to every digital communication and read all notifications from every app in real-time often results in an inordinate amount of time being spent on things that aren’t urgent while distracting from areas that actually need real-time attention.
Many apps, including email and Slack, have capabilities that allow you to set reminders for yourself later. Leveraging features such as this (and concepts like time-blocking and the 911 channel) helps ensure nothing slips through the cracks. In the event an app doesn’t offer this, typically marking something unread, like a notification or text, allows you to easily revisit it later.
Less can be more
Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that “people are prone to solving problems by heaping more complexity and burdens on themselves and others.”
When a process fails or a new business need emerges, we often try to solve the problem by adding more tech to the equation.
In reality, this can cause more problems than it solves. Sometimes less is more, and it can be more effective to reduce the number of apps and tech in one’s business so that time and effort can instead be invested in what is most likely to move the needle.
Here are three ways to do that:
1. Removing redundancy in the tech stack
For example, if multiple file management systems are being used, consolidate to one. Redundancy is often a side effect of personal preferences, so cancel subscriptions where needed to drive compliance across your team or organization.
2. Prune with purpose
As you look for opportunities to consolidate within your tech stack, do so by aligning with the process and outcomes you want to achieve. Mapping out how the tech should be used and how activities should flow from system to system is a good way of doing this and tends to shake out redundancies or inefficiencies fairly quickly.
Defining clear expectations for how each app should be used can also support this effort. For example, use Slack for non-urgent communications and text for things that need immediate attention.
3. Do periodic reviews
Tech bloat is a very real thing across most businesses and industries, especially when it comes to those with nominal subscription fees. It’s just really easy to sign up for an app and forget about it these days.
Review all of the tech in your business on a regular basis, and cancel the ones that aren’t being used or are inefficient. A good way to do this is to cross-reference credit card bills and see what’s being paid for versus what’s actually being used in a meaningful way.
Overcoming digital exhaustion may seem out of reach some days, but can be managed through small, but meaningful tactics and optimizations. Doing so can reduce clutter and noise in one’s business, while ultimately frees up the bandwidth and capacity to better harness the tech that drives results.