Quest For Noiselessness

Last modified on July 26th, 2011

I’ve been striving hard to reduce the amount of online “noise” in my life lately. Without setting any quantitative goals, I’ve been working relentlessly on removing distractions and trying to minimize interruptions.

Normally when I wake up I have around 50 messages waiting for me in my inbox. Many of them are automated – comment notifications from WordPress, Google+ messages, Facebook, etc, but they are still things I need to deal with, even if it’s just to identify that they belong in the trash.

Every email I receive and have to deal with probably notches my background stress level up slightly during the day. Without a doubt, on days where I don’t receive many emails or notifications, I tend to get a lot more done.

A few months ago I wrote a script to start sorting some of my email on the server using IMAP. The benefit of this is that once it’s done it automatically propagates to all my devices, since IMAP is server-based technology. That removed about 90% of the routine emails I get, which are often server, payment or code based notifications. But it still left about 10% to deal with.

For those I’ve been working on the following:

  • Reducing the frequency that Apple mail checks for mail
  • Unsubscribing from newsletters I rarely read (often I never asked to subscribe in the first place)
  • Switching from immediate notifications to digest notifications when possible
  • Turning off push notifications for non essential services
  • Leaving my phone in silent mode unless I’m expecting a call

I didn’t set out with a quantitative goal in mind, just that I wanted less distractions and noise on a daily basis. But ideally I’d like to start waking up with an inbox of zero, or at least a minimal amount of high priority items separated out. That implies at some level that I would be down to only a few personal emails a day, which is a pretty lofty goal, but one I think is obtainable for the most part.