A few weeks ago I started experimenting with ways to gain more control over technology (just my phone, for now). In a world of push notifications and other near instantaneous communication, it's harder than it sounds. But I'm slowly putting together a pattern that works for me.
So, what prompted this? Really I was tired of being interrupted by a ring or buzz when my focus on something else, like talking with another human being. Even if I don't respond pausing mid-sentence to reach down and silence a phone still interrupts the conversation. Even when silent there's the vibration to tell me something more important has happened and I should pay attention to it. Plus I can't help but feel like I should apologize to my office mates when my phone makes its "silent" announcements.
Technology is relentlessly rude.
I began the experiment by disabling all push notifications and turning off all vibration. This created a few new problems. First, I was opening some apps much more frequently to see if I had anything new (though it was nice not to see new mail every minute or so). Second, I couldn't always hear my phone ringing if I was in the car or walking down a noisy street.
What I settled on was turning on push notifications for everything but mail and turning vibration off when silent. This allows me to put my phone in an uninterruptible state when I'm at the office or eating lunch with a friend but still retain the physical prompt when in a loud environment. And I still receive push notifications for less-frequent events, thereby reducing my compulsiveness.
So far, so good. I plan to tackle the desktop next.