The biggest roadblock to your productivity is the smartphone on your desk.
As I type this, my iPhone is tucked away inside my desk drawer under lock and key. It’s been there all day, completely out of sight. I’m slightly anxious about the notifications I might be missing, but only slightly; it’s a manageable level that’s not distracting.
Yes, it’s a little extreme to lock your phone in a drawer. But I’ve learned that it’s the only way I can truly focus and be as productive as I want to be. And unfortunately, the same is true for you, even if you don’t realize it — or want to believe it. (Airplane mode, sadly, won’t help — more on that later.)
A 2017 study in The Journal of the Association of Consumer Research found that the mere presence of your phone — even if it’s powered off, and even if you’re actively and successfully ignoring it — “reduces available cognitive capacity,” which the study’s authors call “brain drain.”
Worse still: The more you depend on your phone, the more your cognitive abilities suffer when it’s around.
Adrian Ward, assistant professor in the marketing department at the University of Texas at Austin, said, “And so now the problem becomes not to figure out what to pay attention to, but resisting that automatic pull. You actually have to devote some of your cognitive resources to resisting,” he said. “Adoption has really outpaced understanding.”
So what are we slaves to technology supposed to do with this?
Rather not toss a few thousand dollars’ worth of tech in the garbage, there some slightly less extreme things you can do to minimize the brain drain caused by your devices.
The first step toward recovery, Mr. Ward advised, is simply being aware of how much of your conscious thoughts are occupied by your phone, whether you’re directly using it or just aware that is in your vicinity. Knowing is half the battle.
If you do manage to tuck it (your smartphone) away out of sight, commit and don’t sneak looks. There are mountains of research that show intermittent distractions, like your phone chirping at you with a notification, can have enormous detrimental effects on your productivity.
Still, it’s not easy to abandon the pieces of technology we’ve built our lives around. If you’re trying and failing to leave your phone in the drawer, don’t worry. Just keep trying. Even the most knowledgeable of us have trouble with it. “It’s a struggle,” Mr. Ward said.
Source: Herrera, T. (2018, December 2) Hide Your Phone When You’re Trying to Work. Seriously. The New York Times.
Editor’s Note: New York Times Reporter on Smartphone vs Productivity.