Apps and websites regularly push alerts to your devices, but there are ways to minimise disruption and still stay in the loop.
Notifications on your phone and computer are great for keeping up to date with breaking news, weather and traffic updates. But those real-time alerts popping up can also drive you nuts with the frequent interruptions bombarding your screen — not to mention the battery burn on your device from all the activity.
Between a presidential election, the Olympics and the usual swirl of current events, 2020 promises to be an especially busy year. If you're already feeling the information overload and want to dial down the notifications, or just need a little peace and quiet, here's a guide to managing your alerts so you get the most useful updates.
Make an early decision
The first time you open a newly downloaded app, it may ask for permission to send you notifications. You can say no.
Alerts from some types of apps, like hurricane trackers, local news or transit aids, are incredibly useful, while others may just want to push coupons or announce a movie opening. Consider how much you want to hear from this app and make your decision. (Some websites will also ask to send notifications to your computer desktop when you first visit.)
Opting out here does not mean you can never get those notifications. Later, if you decide you really want those alerts, you can always enable them in your system settings or just stash them for reading later in your Notifications list.
Prune your phone's or tablet's settings
Some apps may have notification controls in their own settings, but you can also manage alerts in your device's Settings section. Just look for "Notifications" or "Apps & Notifications." In the Notification settings, look for a list of apps and select one you want to change. (Keep in mind that the precise screens you see vary by your device's operating system and version.)
On an Android phone's Apps & Notifications screen, tap an app's icon to get to its App Info page. Next, tap App Notifications to get to all the controls for how that app can alert you. To turn off notification sounds and lock screen alerts for all apps, go to the Apps & Notifications screen and tap Notifications to get started.
In iOS 13, the operating system for Apple devices, tap the button at the top of an app's settings screen to allow or disable notifications. If you decide to keep the notification on, you can adjust where and how it appears on your device. If you don't want a banner alert popping up on the lock screen, you can relegate it directly to the iOS Notifications Center area so you can browse all your updates at once later on.
Manage desktop notifications
Alerts from websites and apps are also part of desktop life — Windows 10, the Mac operating system and some Linux distributions all support them. To adjust how your computer generally handles notifications, dig into the system settings.
On a Windows 10 PC, open the Settings app and select System. On a Mac, open the System Preferences icon and look for Notifications controls. (Linux users should check their particular help guide.)
Most browsers have controls for managing notifications from specific websites. To adjust these alerts, go to the settings or preferences area for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari or the browser of your choice and look for the Notifications section.
Hang up the 'Do Not Disturb' sign
Sometimes you just need a temporary break from all the interruptions, like when you want to stream a video or take a nap. The Do Not Disturb mode in your Android, iOS or Mac system settings can minimize or disable notifications all at once. The Focus Assist mode in Windows 10 (called Quiet Hours in previous versions) offers the same control.
In the Do Not Disturb or Focus Assist settings, you can turn everything off (and on) manually and adjust sound effects. You can also set a daily schedule to automatically suppress alerts — like during your sleeping hours.
If you don't feel like tapping through screens to get to the Do Not Disturb controls, iOS offers a few shortcuts. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center, or swipe down from the upper-right corner of the screen on some models. Tap the crescent moon icon to toggle on (or off) Do Not Disturb. Apple's voice assistant, Siri, also responds to "Hey, Siri, turn on (off) Do Not Disturb."
To jump to Android's Do Not Disturb controls, swipe down from the top of the device's screen and tap the Do Not Disturb icon in the Quick Settings box. In more recent versions of the Android system, you can also ask the Google Assistant to turn the mode on or off when you're ready to jump back into the action.
Written by: J. D. Biersdorfer
© 2020 THE NEW YORK TIMES