How to efficiently process notifications

Monday’s are a fresh slate. You commute to work, walk into your dedicated working space at home, or simply flip open your laptop in bed – after, hopefully, a restful weekend. You launch your browser, Slack, email, and your task manager. Then you start to dig through the pile of notifications. Jumping through tabs, apps on your computer, and apps on your phone. You prioritize notifications by choice, rather than time received. Whether you are using one tool to rule them all or a dozen, notification overwhelm is real. You quickly go from zen, Monday-you, to a frustrated, fifth cup of coffee before noon-you.

To combat this issue you consolidate tools into fewer options, you sign up for a new service that does this for you – into one aesthetic dashboard, or you just start to forget about the notifications in general, having things slip through the cracks. What if this didn’t have to be a problem? What if you didn’t have to sign up for a new tool or declare notification bankruptcy? What if the solution is as old as internet 1.0? Would you believe me if that solution was email? I know, I said a bad word, but it’s true.

As a consultant working for an Operations Design agency, we use a lot of tools. We use some tools in redundancy because that is what our clients use. We have no problem with this, but keeping up with it can be a job all on its own. We are an extreme case for sure, but a lot of our clients are in a similar boat. It might be because their clients or vendors all use different solutions or their team needs dozens of tools to get work done. Either way, we’ve seen this happening now, more than ever.

So how do you use email to solve your notification problem? Simply, funnel all your notifications through it. But to put an Optemization twist on it, we’ll go over how to refine this system to work for you.

Disable push notifications

I know, this seems scary but not everything is a high priority. Let’s be real if everything was a high priority, then nothing is. Don’t disable all push notifications, only the ones that are not a P0 or P1. Then, disable the rest. Go to the settings and/or websites for these tools and enable email notifications. If you do nothing else at this point, you prioritized your attention and that is a win.

Example - Notion

Turn off push notifications and enable email notifications

  1. Navigate to Settings & Members ↖️
  2. Select My Notifications & Settings
  3. Toggle off Mobile push notifications
  4. Toggle on Email notification and Always send email notifications
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  6. Repeat for every workspace you are in
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Optemize your email

Email can get overwhelming when you are not building constructs to identify email types. In order to do this, we are going to use labels and filter to provide hierarchy to your inbox. This will allow you to breeze through your email, focusing on “like” notifications.

We use Gmail at Optemization, so this will apply to Gmail, but the concept can be adapted to other email systems.

  1. We need to find out the tools’ email address and apply a label to it.
  2. Simply grab the senders email to any email notification you have received for the tool we are labeling and filtering
    1. Example: Notions is [email protected]
  3. Select the Settings Gear on the top right of your Gmail inbox
  4. Select See all Settings
  5. Select Filters and Blocked Addresses
  6. Select Create New Filter
  7. Paste the email into the From field
  8. Select Create Filter
  9. Check Apply Label
  10. Select New Label
  11. Add the tools name
    1. Example: Notion
  12. Check Apply filter to matching conversations
  13. Select Create Filter
  14. Emails should now show your Notion notifications as labeled emails
    1. Example:
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  15. Now you can simply click the label on your sidebar to only see that tools notifications

Pro-tip

If you use Superhuman, you can do this a bit easier and with some better aesthetics.

  • This is using the Superhuman Inbox Split functionality
  • Launch Superhuman
  • Find a notification from a tool that you want to filter
  • Select the message
  • Press CMD + K
  • Type Split
  • Click Split Inbox: [email]
  • Title the Split
  • A new section in Superhuman should now show
  • All your tools notifications will now show up here only
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Notification ceremonies

Lastly, interaction with notifications should not be reactionary. I recommend that you have dedicated times of the day when you interact with them, and how you interact with them. Set dedicated times to triage your general email + tool email. Go through them with speed. If you see something that catches your attention, don’t act on it. Keep going until you triage all of it. Then decide what your priorities are and when you plan to work on them. Context switching kills productivity, so focus on types of work in bulk.

Pro-tip

Move through your inbox with speed, using the keyboard.

  1. In Gmail, navigate to SettingsSee all settingsGeneral
  2. Nav down to Auto-advance and select Go to next (newer) conversation
  3. Nav down further to Keyboard shortcuts and select Keyboard shortcuts on
  4. Nav down and Save Changes
  5. Select the oldest email in your inbox and use keyboard shortcuts to breeze through them
    1. e = archive
    2. # = delete
    3. j = previous
    4. k = next
    5. gi = go to inbox

You don’t have to be ruled by your notifications. Your attention is just as valuable as your time. You don’t need to subscribe to a special service to aggregate your notifications or delete tools that work for you. You just need to set up a system that works for you and dedicate specific time to interact with them. Email isn’t all bad especially when you use it to advantage.

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Hi I'm Thor 👋 (Yep, it's my real name, I swear!). Originally from Brooklyn, recently transplanted from South Florida to Portland, Oregon. I am a storyteller and minimalist. In a previous life I was a product manager. Now I’m only working on projects that bring me fulfillment, which revolved around remote work, minimalism, environmentalism, and sustainability.

Fun fact: When I am not behind my monitor I am hiking, biking, or picking up heavy things.

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