Notifications are distractions, but they don’t have to be — it calls for an aggressive behaviour on user’s part to manage them. Any app that needs my attention first has to convince me that it is worthy of that. It has to convince me that it deserves the right to break into my life, to barge into whatever am doing and make me acknowledge what it has to say.
What that means is no new app gets a default “Yes” from me for its “Enable Notifications” prompt. They are always disabled first. (Same applies to my privacy too. No app gets access to my location, even while running, or my photos or my contacts. No, always a no.)
Every app, at least on iOS, clearly communicates why it needs that privilege - by prompting at appropriate time, during an appropriate task. It is then that I make the call if that cause is indeed genuine.
And then there are those apps that make me anxious for their notifications, for some instant gratification they deliver (e.g. social media likes). I have realised one thing - these apps should not be allowed to light up my screen or vibrate in my pocket. Because valuable minutes and hours are lost in checking if they indeed have lighten up. It also grants me another incentive to access the app and follow what’s going on there. Of course, on my own terms this time.
Attention is a valuable asset, acquired with extreme difficulty, one that costs dearly to regain when lost. That device in your pocket is there to assist you, to save you time. Don’t let it steal this asset throughout the day.