Note: stay in control of your notifications

Tom Van ‘t Veld

I remember when the term FOMO was introduced. It was used to designate the anxious feeling we get about not being able to be somewhere that might be worthwhile (fear of missing out). We associated the phenomenon with social life, but it was clear from the beginning that the daily use of digital tools – more precisely social media that continually notify us about what is going on around us – was a real instigator.

Unsurprisingly, FOMO has found its way to the workplace, as digital tools have become omnipresent. Fear of missing out on: important information, urgent questions, commercial opportunities, problems that need solutions, appraisals… Fear that sprouts from good intentions but becomes a real hazard for productivity, especially because it’s aroused by notifications.

Here are a few tips for dealing with notifications within Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Teams.

Outlook Notifications

Everything starts with organizing your day. One task that everyone has on a daily basis is checking emails. Instead of doing so non-stop, define one or a few specific times in the day when you handle your emails. To limit the temptation of checking in between, turn off all notifications in Outlook. You do this via the Outlook options, where you can adjust the message arrival settings, under the Mail category. My advice? Uncheck all notification options. It takes some getting used to (maybe even kicking the habit), but you’ll find that it brings a considerable amount of peace.

Of course, there are exceptions. If part of your day job is to follow up closely on a mailbox, for instance if you work in customer service, then of course you are not going to follow the advice above. For certain roles, maybe the advice is still valid, but you may just reduce the time between every e-mail-check-moment. That way, you avoid facing unbearably long lists of e-mails to take care of.

In any case, one thing you really want to unlearn, is jumping on a mail right away. Finish the task you were on, first. And don’t fool yourself into believing you can multitask. Even if an e-mail turns out not to engender any to-do’s for you, the loss of concentration will affect your overall productivity tremendously over the course of the day.

Teams notifications

The productivity gains we can get from using the Microsoft Teams functionalities are impressive. Teams is as powerful as a lion. But when it comes to notifications, it is a tough one to tame. The thing with Teams is that it is your modern workplace. In modern organizations, most of what is happening, happens on Teams. No matter how well you manage your notifications, you will always get a minimum of notifications.

Take a look in the Teams settings under the Notifications section. You can make a huge amount of adjustments here to personalize the notifications. If you choose to turn most of it off, you still get this sort of constant notification, in the form of that red little dot. The one with a number inside, that keeps getting bigger. The reason? You are getting @ mentions or direct chat messages.

Teams is about collaboration. That means you need to set up some standard practices together.

One important ground rule you can try to implement is to keep the use of @ mentions to a minimum. In a channel conversation, you may want to use this if you want to make it clear that a certain part of the text applies especially to a specific person (as opposed to everyone in the channel). You could go even further and only allow on @ mentions if a concrete action is requested from the person.

In any case, try to keep @ mentioning an entire channel or Team to an absolute minimum. The implications of this are far greater than you probably imagine. On average, 40% of team members tend to drop all their work and go straight to see what’s so important. And every time a reply to this message is posted, everyone gets a notification again, even though it may no longer be relevant for most after one or two interactions.

A great new functionality in Windows 11

Whatever the standard practices you and your colleagues agree on, Microsoft has come out with a fantastic new functionality in Windows 11 that allows you to be more in control of your attention: the Focus app.

It is found under the Windows clock at the bottom right of your desktop. Here you’ll be able to schedule a period of focus time. During this time, you won’t get any notifications whatsoever. I already apply this regularly, and it allows me to concentrate much better. Tip: remember to indicate your focus time in your Outlook calendar. That way, your colleagues will know when you are unavailable.

Get your people to deal with workplace notifications efficiently

Efficiency in the digital workplace – is one of the hot topics this spring at Xylos, with the release of our Productivity Camp offering. Next week, we will be hosting a webinar for Productivity Camp customers (and therefore OASE users) on their OASE platform. It will be dedicated to the topic of notifications and how to manage them across your different devices.

Are you not a Productivity Camp customer yet? Find out how this comprehensive digital training approach makes the difference, now!

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