Batch smartphone notifications

A study called “Batching smartphone notifications can improve well-being” found that:

  • Batching alerts hourly produced little change compared to control (use as usual).
  • Batching notifications 3 times a day reduced stress and increased well-being.
  • Completely switching off alerts produced, instead, more anxiety and FoMO.

With an app that we developed, we conducted a randomized field experiment (n = 237) to test whether batching notifications—delivering notifications in predictable intervals throughout the day—could improve psychological well-being.

Using daily diary surveys, we measured a range of psychological and health outcomes, and through our app system, we collected data on phone use behaviors. Compared to those in the control condition, participants whose notifications were batched three-times-a-day felt more attentive, productive, in a better mood, and in greater control of their phones. Participants in the batched group also reported lower stress, lower productivity, and fewer phone interruptions.

In contrast, participants who did not receive notifications at all reaped few of those benefits, but experienced higher levels of anxiety and “fear of missing out” (FoMO). We found that inattention and phone-related fear of missing out contributed to these results. 

It’s interesting to see that turning off notifications completely had a negative effect on participants, and they were better off batching them to 3 times a day.

No notifications would seem like the best solution (if you don’t have a fear of missing out) but for those of us that do need notifications (email, FB messages, etc.) then batching appears to be the best of both worlds.

The study is not perfect in that they use diary surveys to measure anxiety and other points, but the findings do make sense. I’d like to see this replicated with a larger group.