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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Heading into 2021, take a half-hour to give yourself a priceless gift: freedom from notifications.

The big picture: Most smartphone users feel besieged and beset by a horde of banners, badges and beeps demanding their attention — heedless of the power they have to stem, shape or squelch this notification onslaught.

Why it matters: Most of us are too busy, confused or fatalistic to intervene and change our phone's defaults. That puts us at the mercy of every tech platform and app maker that is fighting for precious shards of our attention.

I am a notification nihilist, and I will show you how to be one too. These recommendations are good for the holiday weekend. But if you do this once, you won't ever want to go back.

But remember: With all the different messaging app options available to us today, if you give them all notification privileges, you're doomed.

  • I've been on Twitter since 2007 and I have never once seen a Twitter notification. Maybe that's why I still like Twitter.
  • Do you really want notifications when you receive email? Doesn't that defeat the whole point of email, which is that you choose when to look at it?
  • Each time you install a new app, particularly those from e-commerce companies, when the app asks for permission to send you notifications, click "no" and strike a blow for your own sanity.
  • If you're a news junkie and want lots of news notifications, then go crazy. Otherwise, pick a single news app you trust and give only that provider the ability to send you news notifications.

"But I need to get notifications for my job!" you say? All right — you can still be a notification minimalist.

  • Figure out what your work essentials are, and turn those notifications back on.
  • If your work isn't the kind that demands minute-by-minute responses, consider ways to build a routine where you check for messages on your own schedule instead of messages coming after you.
  • Don't forget to set a "Do not disturb" period on your phone for late night/sleep hours.

Even when you've granted a select few notifications the right to hijack your brain, you can still take them on your own terms.

  • You can choose to receive banners on your phone lock screen, for instance, but turn off sound alerts.

Yes, but: Choosing this low-notification path doesn't guarantee you will find peace of mind.

  • Without a horde of apps pounding on the doors of your consciousness, you might find yourself with more time to think about real things that trouble you, rather than whatever is rustling the hive mind at any given moment.
  • At least you — and not some algorithmic estimate of what tidbit might best seize your attention — will be the author of your own discontent.

Go deeper

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Sources say Beto plans Texas comeback in governor’s race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas, in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.

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