New research says all those push notifications may be just as distracting as actually sending a message or making a call. Here’s how to break free from the constant flow of communication. 

By Brigitt Earley
Updated July 13, 2015
James Whitaker / Getty Images

If you’re starting to hear ringtones that aren’t really happening or finding yourself sleeping with your phone, it’s probably time to reevaluate your relationship with your cell phone. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, the constant deluge of notifications seriously interferes with productivity—even if your device is on vibrate.

A simple notification—a text message or an alert that someone’s liked your latest status update—can be just as distracting as making calls or sending text messages, according to Florida State University researchers. “Although these notifications are generally short in duration, they can prompt task-irrelevant thoughts, or mind-wandering, which has been shown to damage task performance," the researchers wrote in the paper. "Cellular phone notifications alone significantly disrupt performance on an attention-demanding task, even when participants do not directly interact with a mobile device during the task."

An alarming body of evidence suggests smartphones distract us from other facets of life, too: One recent study found that 44 percent of parents struggle to limit cell phone use while supervising their kids at the playground. And another study suggests excessive smartphone use after 9 pm can negatively affect melatonin production, which leads to sleep deprivation and decreased engagement at work.

Concerned? If you struggle to untether from your tech, follow these smart tips, courtesy of Kristen Chase and Liz Gumbinner, publishers of

1. Turn off social media notifications.
All of them! Do you really need to know when your friend made a comment on someone else's Facebook update? Probably not. Simply disabling all of your social media notifications can help cut down on distractions and maybe even make you more productive.

2. Use the “Do Not Disturb” function on your iPhone (or download a similar app on your Android).
The do not disturb setting lets you determine which calls and texts come through, either manually or on a timer. So if you know you're going to be in meetings at a given time every day, you can toggle this setting on and off automatically over that specific period. Only calls from designated special people (like say, your kids) will be able to get through.

3. Download IF by IFTTT.
It may seem counterintuitive to download another app when you’re trying to limit screen time, but this free app allows you to create simple connections between your top apps and social media networks, in the form of recipes. So, for example, one of our recipes is that if a certain VIP emails us, it actually sends a text message. This way, you can turn off all of your notifications, but still ensure that the important ones get through.