Forget About Push Notifications For Your Email

Forget About Push Notifications For Your Email

Two weeks ago, the popular Mac-only desktop email client Sparrow released the iPhone app, and it is really, really good. It does, however, have one catch: It doesn’t (yet) support push notifications. To that I say: Who cares?

You may have a job where email is the primary form of communication and you need to respond to every email the instant it arrives. If that’s your job, I’m sorry. This post may not be for you.

For most of us, instant email back-and-forth is not nearly as important as we make it out to be. Yes, email is where a lot of our most important communication happens. But email isn’t something that requires you to drop everything the moment something new pops into your inbox. That you think so is an indication that email is probably screwing up a lot of your day.

Despite having heard countless times that multitasking is a myth, you may consider yourself a master multitasker. OK, fine. But believe me when I tell you: the vibrating pulse in your pocket indicating the arrival of a new email; the unpredictable “ding” from your desktop’s email notification; these things are killing your focus and destroying your ability to work to your capacity.

Stop worrying whether your pocket buzzes the instant a new email arrives. You shouldn’t let it do this anyway. Check your email in batches. Schedule in your email time. Do it as often as your job requires. Once an hour is probably more than enough for most of us. Better yet, make it twice a day if possible. Respond thoughtfully, when your time and energy is focused specifically on checking and answering email.

If that sort of schedule is a problem, you may want to consider a new hierarchy for your communication. At Lifehacker, email between staff is relegated primarily to non-urgent communication. By non-urgent, I mean communication that everyone is expected to read (and if necessary, respond to) at some point during the day. For urgent group matters, we have a group chat room. For urgent individual matters, we have IM, or even SMS.

This hierarchy of communication is important. Yes, it requires people at your work to adopt and use the hierarchy. But it’s worth it.

As for push email? Turn it off. Your sanity (and battery) will thank you.


  • When you break it down push notifications seems trivial, but when you have learnt to live with the convenience of knowing when a new email arrives, having to go back and manually check sparrow is a slight hassle. A hassle i would not expect from a paid app.

    It may not be necessary for everyone all the time but there are some times when people are expecting important emails. Instead of checking yours emails periodically and pulling your hair out when you haven’t got that important email you’ve been waiting for, push notification can give you your sanity back by informing you the instant it arrives.

    • not having push email doesn’t mean you have to check it manually. It just means the application has to poll the server every (x) number of mins instead of maintaining a persistant connection with the server.

      • Except a 3rd party app cant do that reliably thanks to apples reluctance to give users a choice. I still love the iPhone despite its many shortcomings. We need to allow 3rd party daemons to run.

        So you do have to check manually so sparrow is pretty useless for me and the vast majority of people who rely on email for supporting clients.

        Yes with the default you can set it to fetch every xx mins and i sometimes do that when push drives me insane with multiple dings/vibrates at 3am)

  • I like email push notification. I like to see that little red badge telling me how many emails I have. I have, however, turned off the vibration and ring tone so that it doesn’t bother me 24/7. There’s nothing worse than your phone vibrating (even though its on silent) just as youre falling asleep. It’s nice though to see how many are sitting in my inbox without having to open the app, and if I am waiting on something important I can check it within a timely fashion.

  • I turned off push in the native app long ago and am better for it. Highly recommend for productivity.
    No need to be updated in frequent increments or new emails, I’ll check at times I want and be productive the rest of the time!

  • A poor article IMO you must really want to like Sparrow,
    I want my phone to check emails for me , a quick glance will tell me if I need to respond or not , after using push for years although I like Sparrow and use the desktop version on my Mac, I don’t like it that much I will change my way of working just so I can use it, as you seem to be suggesting I should

  • @Chris… get a nokia! Im so tired of these apple “breakthroughs” that have been in most other platforms for a decade. The no daemon thing is a total dealbreaker for me; no push, no google latitude (tracking)… etc etc and the battery life *still* sux despite all this! Boo I say… Booooooo.

  • although I agree with many points, I have issue with the battery comment.

    True, proper push would actually potentially use LESS battery than manual checking. Let’s say you check your email every hour for 10 hours. That’s 10 checks. But if you have push on, and receive let’s say 7 emails, that’s only 7 checks. See what I mean?

    Admittedly there are different types of push, some more or less efficient.

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