Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Responsiveness and Notifications

I had always considered my responsiveness to emails and IMs a point of pride – I liked to keep an empty inbox so I replied to emails and IMs as soon as I became aware of them. This of course turned out a bit bad in the short run. I was easily distracted from whatever work I was doing – although I did take pride in being pretty good at multitasking (Yes I know, no one is *really* good at multitasking, I’m just less bad at it than other people). I think in the long run was a problem too, somehow my brain has been rewired to instinctively always want to reply quickly to everything when it isn’t necessary, and even when I’m not on the clock.

Things got worse when we had this project that required our team to provide off-hours support. As you can imagine, that led to me checking emails and IMs all the time. I think I’ve developed a sort of notification anxiety, where if I hear my phone make a notification sound I’m always tempted to get up and check it. And of course there’s the common social problem nowadays of always checking your phone compulsively while you have it in your hand. There’s some kind of FOMO there that might be some kind of crisis or emergency I have to respond to.

I’ve started modifying the settings on my phone so I don’t get too many notifications. I’ve turned off many noncrucial notifications; I don’t really need a notification telling me someone liked a Tweet I made or that it’s my turn on Words with Friends. If there’s something urgent, I expect people to call.

Responsiveness is good for software systems but maybe not for humans.

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