The app community has provided us countless tools for monitoring health related stats. Track how many steps you take each day. Track your sleep each night. My personal favorite is the app that reminds me to drink enough water over the course of the day.
I get a little notification when it's time to grab another glass of water. It's set up based on the hours I'm awake each day and my goal for water intake. The reminders are very subtle but I have found them to be effective. I'll admit I particularly like the smiling cartoon at the end of the day when I've hit the goal.
What I didn't expect from my water app was the secondary effect of increasing my productivity.
That increase isn't because I'm less parched. I'm sure there are articles out there that tie sufficient water intake to better concentration. My observation here isn't about extolling the need to be fully hydrated.
It's about mindfulness.
Most app notifications reduce our productivity. They may be necessary. However, they interrupt the flow of our work. They break into our focus and our personal time. Many of us believe we are great multi-taskers. The reality is there is no such thing as multitasking. It is a constant shifting of our attention from one task to another. With no one task getting our full attention, both suffer. App notifications play into the worst elements of that.
Amazingly, my water app notification has had the opposite impact on my day. When the alert arrives, I know it does not require immediate attention and therefore doesn't pull me away from what I'm doing.
At the next natural opportunity after my alert, however, I take a break to get that glass of water. That creates for me a mindful moment away from all other work or personal tasks to clear my mind. I disengage from my last item and before moving to my next, I have the chance to reorient myself before picking up the next thing.
I purposefully do not keep more than a 12 ounce glass of water at my desk. The need to get up to refill the glass is part of this new ritual. Stepping away from my computer and my phone, that few minutes every few hours provides the mental break I need to re-order my thoughts. I take another look at my to do list for the day and make notes or adjustments. When I click the notification to update the app, I'm ready to dive back into my day.
We live and work in the midst of technology with the flashing, buzzing, vibrating and chiming reminders of all the responsibilities demanding of our attention and energy. You can find ways for them to bring out back to mindfulness for a few moments.