📱 How to make Notification Center your “inbox for apps”

Note: this is a sample article from my weekly Finer Things in Tech Newsletter. Subscribe to get quick tips, occasional longer walkthroughs like this, and links to good reads from others in the community.

I had an idea a while ago that helped me in dealing with push notification and email overload. In short: I realized there are a number of things I want to be aware of, but I don’t need to be alerted in real time. I decided I wanted a place that:

  • is not my email inbox. I’m trying to improve the signal vs. noise balance in there
  • did not alert me in real time as things are happening, because that’s distracting
  • is easy to triage and go on about my day, and doesn’t clutter things like search when I need to find important things later

After some testing with Notification Center on my iOS devices, I found a configuration that has helped me a lot, so maybe it can help you too. For each app and service that fits my description above, try this:

  • Turn off all available email notifications. You might be able to do this in-app, but you might have to tediously log into their website because the company still thinks it’s 2002
  • Opened Settings > Notifications > name of the app
  • Turn off the app badge
  • Turn off sounds
  • Turn off banners
  • Turn off the lock screen option
  • Keep “Show in Notification Center” enabled

This way, I avoid noisy emails cluttering my inbox and push notification banners popping up and distracting me. But—and here’s the important part—I can still get notifications about things that are important, and check them on my own time in Notification Center.

Any notifications I tap get cleared automatically. All others can be wiped out with a quick 3D Touch on the (X) button on iPhone, as that offers a “Clear All Notifications” option. On iPad, it’s only two taps to clear a day’s notifications.

This can work for everything from sports scores to updates from your favorite bloggers. For example, I follow a lot of people on Tumblr, including a few artists whose work I thoroughly appreciate. I turned on notifications for those artists, but I certainly don’t want to be alerted about their posts while I’m working.

Now, with this setup, I can catch up on stuff like this on my own time, without it getting lost in the stream of my day to day work and life.