How to Tame Those Distracting Notifications on Your Computer

When it comes to minimizing distractions during the day, we usually think of smartphone notifications: Those pings and buzzes that pull us out of whatever we were doing and demand we turn our attention to something new.

It’s not just phones clamoring for our attention though, our laptops and desktop computers do it too. Depending on your office or home setup, you might find that Windows or macOS is even more distracting than your phone.

And those interruptions come with a cost. Every time we’re distracted from the task at hand, productivity and concentration suffer, even if we don’t look at the notification. Those pop-ups and pings mean you get less done in the same amount of time.

If you’re ready to claim back some of those wasted minutes, here’s how to go about it—and for the best results, you might want to turn off your phone while you work, too.

Managing Notifications on Windows

Focus assist is one way of keeping Windows notifications under control.

Microsoft via David Nield

Open the Start menu and click Settings (the cog icon), then choose System and Notifications & actions to start bringing your various apps into line. Right away you’ll see a toggle switch for leaving notifications on or turning them off completely—something you might want to consider if they’re really impacting your productivity.

Other options on this screen will help you manage notification overload in various ways. You can choose to hide alerts from the lock screen, for example, or allow notifications to be shown but disable the sound they make. It’s also possible to turn off less important alerts, such as tips and tricks for using Windows.

Further down the page, you get toggle switches for every app you have installed, and it’s here that you can really start customizing your notification experience. Not only can you turn off notifications for programs you really don’t want to hear from, but you can also click the program name to manage how notifications are shown—you might allow some apps to show pop-ups but not others, for instance.