Why I Turned Off Email Notifications

April 25, 2021

(Originally published on September 29, 2018.)

In the not too distant past, Google got something right. Recently, they have been in the news for some fairly ridiculous antics, like obfuscating domains in the URL, or automatically signing users into the browser, before half-assedly backpeddling. But, in more positive news—or olds, since it came with Oreo—you can now disable notifications per app. I love this feature, because I have a habit of abandoning near real-time notifications.

It started at work. Checking email regularly used to be a big thing. For some, unfortunately, it still is. I am regularly surprised, for example, when I see toast from Outlook on someone else's screen while they are in the middle of a screen-sharing session. My surprise stems from the fact that I turned off these annoyingly unsatisfying morsels a long time ago.

Too many times, the emails that pop into my inbox are useless. There are days when I don't hear footsteps on my front deck, because the mailman has no mail for me. Yet without fail, every day, I receive an onslaught of email. Most of it is caught by Google's seemingly omniscient spam filter, but plenty of junk still makes it to my inbox: newletters from people I've never met, or notices of changes to terms of services I don't use.

At work, it's actually worse: internal spam from folks that think they are doing me a favor. No, I am not interested in the campaign you just stopped due to a hurricane; there's nothing for me to do about it either way. No, I still don't care about the outcome of the recurring conference calls I deleted from my calendar two years go. Sí, yo hablo español, pero no, I can't help you with the problema you are experiencing in Mexico as I sit in here in Louisville. See, I am doing my job, a job that has nothing to do with your never-ending cash shortages.

It is already mentally exhausting having to deal with this nonsense on my schedule, so why would I let it keep grabing my attenion, forcing me onto your schedule all day long? That's why I don't. If your issue is urgent, my number can be found in the company directory. And yet, my phone is not ringing off the hook.

That's why today, I took things a step further: I turned off email notifications on my phone. I decided that if it doesn't make sense to give away my attention while I'm getting paid, it makes even less sense to do so for free. Thanks to Oreo, and the fact that all my email accounts are currently Gmail accounts, this was easy. I went into the phone's settings and turned off all notifications for Gmail. It felt fabulous! Almost as fabulous as when I unplugged Outlook's overheated toaster. Now I can get back to work—er, fun.