How often does it happen that you allow yourself to be distracted by your phone?
If you are like most people, the answer is all the time. Whether you are browsing through Facebook pages, chatting with friends or playing games on your phone, most people I know are constantly engaged with their phones.
Unfortunately, distractions come with a cost. Research has confirmed that multitasking is a huge obstacle to productivity. In fact, one study found that working on a project while continuously checking emails reduces our IQ by ten points, which is equivalent to not sleeping a whole night. Just think about what that could mean for you…
So if interruptions affect our performance so dramatically, let me ask you something:
Why do you think we are so obsessed with our phones?
Please really take a moment to think about this question.
Some people argue that is part of our genetic hardwiring to constantly be alert for what goes on around us. They claim that our ancestors could not afford to filter out distractions, as they were surrounded by life-endangering threats.
This reasoning would make sense if times hadn’t changed, putting us at the top of the food chain. We humans are so adaptable, so why would we not instinctively learn to be more focused, get more done in less time, and create more play time for ourselves?
Another common justification is that since we have all these cool technical devices that are both entertaining and useful, why not make full use of them. After all, we are constantly seeking new and exciting stimulation, which is exactly what our phones can offer to us.
The problem with this argument is that it presupposes that we are the masters of our devices and not vice versa, meaning that we could pick and choose when to use them so they serve our long term goals best. If this were true, we would indeed enjoy a healthy relationship with our handy devices. Sadly, though, this is not the case for most people who use their phones without any time restrictions.
So let’s think about what happens when we fiddle with our devices so that we can discover the secret benefit of being distracted:
Usually, we are busy doing something or speaking to someone, and occasionally take a quick glance at our phone. In that instant, we interrupt whatever we are for a short moment, whether it is working on an important project, spending time with our family, or even just sitting still and reflecting about some of the important goals. A short second can turn into minutes and hours of constant or frequent browsing, sucking up our valuable time and our precious attention.
In a sense, our constant busyness with our mobiles serves as a buffer and excuse to prevent ourselves from diving deeper into whatever it was we were doing.
At first, this may sound ridiculous- why would we want to stop ourselves from doing something any guesses?
If you really think about it, though, the answer becomes quite apparent:
Finding refuge in our phone legitimizes our desire to stop pushing ourselves from taking the kind of action that would allow us to enjoy real progress, because they are initially either difficult, require effort or feel a bit uncomfortable. In other words, being interrupted allows us to justify avoiding to the outside of our comfort zone when this means facing emotions like fear and frustration.
The real problem is that over time, we train our brain to seek constant distractions. Playing with our phone becomes a habit that comes at a huge cost: Being unable to focus.
Professionally, this means we can no longer perform at our best because it takes effort and persistence to face challenges, brainstorm new ideas and dig a little deeper to experience long-term success so we waste hours on answering unimportant emails instead.
Socially, we are no longer able to give our dearest people our fullest attention, leave alone connect in a deeper and more vulnerable manner, and rather engage with our facebook friends.
In both cases, we settle for the easy solution and a life of meritocracy.
Would you like to change this and find an easy way to become more focused and productive immediately?
Very simple—all you need to do is to become the master of your phone. Just think of how much more effective you could become at both works and with your relationships if you could be a little bit more focused.
I am not suggesting you give up on browsing altogether. Rather, I am proposing you limit your play time with your mobile, and teach yourself to do one thing at a time. This could include dedicating specific time slots for surfing the web and interacting with social media, if that is something you want to do, and enjoying it as a form of pure entertainment. But it also means ensure you give your fullest attention to your most important goals of the day.
So if you are ready for a challenge, choose one easy way to restrict the use of your phone for at least one week, and share it with me below:
For example, you could decide to switch off your phone at a certain time every evening, put various alerts on silence, avoid checking your phone while speaking to people, or creating one hour a day in which you keep away from your mobile.