Hack Your Notification Badges To Encourage Good Habits

iOS/Android: Choosing how to use spare moments on your phone can feel like dieting. You might find yourself choosing Twitter or Facebook every time, mad at yourself for never cracking open Kindle or Instapaper. Fighting this habit takes a whole arsenal, so here's one more weapon: Turn off all your "bad" notification badges and turn on some good ones.

First, disable the notification badges for any apps that feel like "bad habits". For the vast majority of us -- even bloggers -- those updates can wait until the next time that we open the app of our own accord. Twitter knows that you don't need a bright red sticker counting every fave and retweet, but they know it will make you open the app more, so they enable it by default. Turn it off, watch the badge disappear, and feel that you have achieved true peace.

Look at every notification badge on your phone, and ask yourself what would happen if you didn't check it. If the answer is "probably nothing", then disable that badge. You might find this even applies to email or chat apps.

Next, turn on badges for your "good" apps. Most workout and habit apps enable these by default. But if your goals include working down your Instapaper queue or listening to more podcasts, you can turn badges on for those too. Because these apps generally don't rely on your constant check-ins, they leave badges off by default. The Kindle and iBooks apps don't even have a badge option. But Instapaper does, and so does the iOS podcast app Overcast.

These badges might look weird. I have a 57-article backlog on Instapaper, so that badge sometimes stresses me out. But that stress does exactly what it's supposed to! Now I tap Instapaper more often, and Twitter less. That badge is one of the factors.

This trick won't do much alone. You should also curate your other notifications, so each fave doesn't wake your phone from sleep; you should move distracting apps off your front screen, or hide them in folders. You should block distracting apps during certain times, with an app such as Freedom or Offtime. No one trick can solve phone distraction, but try each one to find the combination that works best for you.

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