Chances are if you are reading this, you are doing it from a smartphone. Possibly you just switched over from checking email, did a quick browse of some headlines, and scrolled through your Facebook feed before finding your way unto this article. In a span of a few minutes waiting in line at the grocery store, or during a commercial on TV, if you’re like the majority of people, you may end up checking countless apps, and reading snapshots of articles. In fact, a study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers found the average user checks their phone close to 150 times per day.
Constantly checking your phone makes us increasingly hyperactive and can cause ADHD-like symptoms. A more subtle side effect than merely feeling FOMO when not reaching for the phone in between lulls in conversation is the loss of prime opportunities for creative thinking. Think about it. If you are constantly reaching for your phone whenever a moment presents itself, you are occupying your brain with what is most often than not completely useless information. Nonetheless, that information is taking up prime brain real estate, stifling creativity and out of the box thinking. How often do you hear of someone who makes a living on their creativity, such a musician or painter claiming to spend hours tethered to their computers or smartphone? Less you think that it’s no big deal because you don’t have that kind of job, think again. In knowledge-based fields, how creative you can be to solve problems, and develop new products or technologies is a huge component of the day to day work. Even if you are at the bottom of the rung at your company, being able to creatively think about how to improve your job and performance, will eventually be noticed by higher ups, rather than someone who comes in every single day and does the job, but otherwise has their head buried in the sand (or smartphone).
If you’re thinking that this is just how technology has made our world now, and that we have to accept the constant stream of interruptions, self-induced or not, I propose an alternative. Try to spend at least short breaks, say the two minutes while you’re brushing your teeth, actually just brushing your teeth. If you are like me and had made a habit of taking care of personal calls while commuting, try to see if you can just sit with your thoughts at least one way of the trip. There is absolutely no need to fill every single second of the day with some form of entertainment, especially lackluster one. Keep reminding yourself throughout the day when you feel the urge to pull your phone out. You never know when a million dollar idea is going to pop into your head.
If you simply cannot pry yourself from checking your phone several times an hour, then at least try to minimize the sheer amount of multitasking that you are doing while you’re on it since we’re all aware of its deleterious effects. I have literally found myself flipping through the same old headlines on Flipboard several times a day because I couldn’t come up with anything else to do when I had a sudden free moment. I now purposefully have an e-book tab open on my phone the entire day (currently the Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli) and so instead of being tempted to scroll once again through the same barrage of baby pics from my friends on Facebook, I just pick up the book where I left off. This is a great strategy that allows me to reduce my urge to multitask, and gain valuable knowledge from reading throughout the day, which also helps me accomplish one of my long-term goals of reading at least one book per week.
It is not an easy task to consciously choose to check your phone less, especially when it seems like everyone around you has succumbed to its hypnotic powers. It is imperative though to truly have your mind as unencumbered as possible, for those life-changing breakthroughs to come. It might seem like an innocuous thing, to check ones phone constantly, but like Warren Buffet said “chains of habits are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”