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How Not to Let Smartphones Make Us Dumber but Smarter

How Not to Let Smartphones Make Us Dumber but Smarter

The more we use smartphones, the dumber we become.

Research [1] has found that having a smartphone physically nearby actually causes us to perform worse on tasks than those who’s smartphones were in another room. In other words, the mere presence of your smartphone reduces your cognitive capacity even if you’re not conscious of the affect.

Smartphones are the largest source of attention pollution

While smartphones provide us with convenience such as the ability to connect with people within seconds, they also facilitate the development of bad habits like having too much entertainment and procrastinating. Entertainment is great for the short term, but it’s a massive drain on our time and has a massive impact on our long term growth.

Whether we want to admit it or not, smartphones are the largest source of attention pollution.  If you check them or not, push notifications are there to remind us of who’s messaged, emailed, liked our status or latest Instagram photo. We get these at all hours of the day and night as a flashing beacon to check our phone, meaning it’s difficult to complete a task without interruption and distraction compared to years ago when this wouldn’t have been a problem.

People are so addicted to smartphones because of the fear of missing out

Even without any notifications to nudge us, we never forget to check our phones, thanks to FOMO or the fear of missing out. This is when we feel that sense of anxiety that we aren’t up to date on the latest news or posts especially on social media, and it causes us to robotically check our smartphones mindlessly.

The problem with FOMO is that we fear we’re missing out on the things that actually don’t matter. Our lives won’t change if we don’t see the latest updates on Facebook.

However, this is causing us to miss the things in life that actually do matter. We waste a vast amount of time that could be spent working on our strengths and weaknesses, widening our knowledge and personal growth or improving our health.

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This is like feeding the brain junk food while letting it be starved of the essential nutrients it needs to sustain its optimum health and thrive.

How not to make your smartphone turn into a “dumbphone”

We can’t completely avoid using our smartphones. This is unrealistic. But there are ways we can avoid our smartphones turning into “dumbphones”.

It starts with identifying particular types of apps that immediately turn a smartphone into a dumbphone. These are the apps that:

  • Have no clear purpose. They don’t provide a concrete function and you can’t tell what you’ll get out if it at the end.
  • Are bottomless. There’s no definite end to these like you’d find with a book or a movie. Rather they’re designed to keep you using them for as long as possible usually in the form of a game.
  • Are addictive. When you don’t use them regularly you feel uncomfortable and FOMO comes to the surface.

Don’t delete them, just make them less accessible

While deleting these apps and going cold turkey may seem like the answer, it’s actually better to make them less accessible.

The more we suppress ourselves by deleting the apps, the more difficult it’ll be to stop thinking about using them.

Instead, a better way (if you use an iPhone in this example) is to gather these apps together into a folder and move this to the last page of your phone’s screen. The magic of this is that you’re creating a choice and when you’re brain is mindful of this choice it feels less tempted to open the apps. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ concept is also pretty powerful here.

    Create a folder and name it as “Time wasters”
      Put the folder on the last page

      How to further make your smartphone really SMART

      So you’ve managed to reduce access to these time-wasting apps and it’s freed up your time to focus on better things. Now it’s time to use your smartphone to facilitate your growth.

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      Go from the passive to the active approach by using RSS feeds

      Using RSS reader apps can dramatically increase the quality of information you receive through your smartphone. On other platforms, if you have a particular interest and want to get the latest updates you might get inundated with 100 news stories on a subject where only 2 of them are actually applicable to you. With RSS feeds (or Really Simple Syndication feeds), on the contrary, the right information will be filtered for you based on your needs, dramatically cutting down on precious time.

      The good news is most websites have these but Feedly is a great example of an app that allows you to gather vast amounts of content in one place making it convenient for you to find. It links to many different media channels across different platforms allowing you to keep up to date.

        Learn new things through a wide variety of apps

        There are a plethora of apps that help you learn and grow in almost any subject.

        Khan Academy provides so may options for subjects to learn about, from history to science, finance to humanities.

        Wokabulary and Duolingo are two great apps for learning new languages. But whatever you want to learn whether it’s guitar, drawing or coding, there are relevant apps to help you achieve your goals.

          Duolingo (left), Guitar Lessons by Guitar Tricks (Middle), How to Draw – Free Drawing Lessons (right)

          Make use of your phone to track your lifestyle and improve it

          Our smartphones are with us everywhere we go so it’s a great way to track what we do. Once we have a better overall understanding of how we’re choosing to live we can tune and improve it.

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          Tracking what you eat can be one of the best ways to get more healthy. Most of us can’t remember what we ate for dinner last Tuesday but apps like MyFitnessPal will do this for you.

          Other areas of your life can also be covered using your smartphone’s current apps such as writing down your daily moods which can improve your well-being.

          Make good use of practical apps

          There are many amazing apps that can fire up our imaginations or simply help us to live a better life. Either way, they can be used to replace any current apps that waste your time.

          Decibel 10 turns your smartphone into an accurate noise meter. It’s fun and interesting to see how much noise you’re being exposed to.

            PackPoint is a useful one for travellers. It helps calculate what you need to take on a trip according to the length of time, where you’re going and what you’ll be doing there.

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              Waterlogged will help you drink more water by accurately allowing you to measure your containers. It also includes other drinks such as tea, coffee and soda.

                Forest can show you exactly how much time you waste on social media and procrastinating in general. With this app you grow your own tree but the catch is it’ll wither and die the more you move away from the app to check other unnecessary ones.

                  While our smartphones are getting a bad rep, it really is down to us to use them to our full advantage. Replace those apps that bring no added growth to your life and make use of the access to apps that can enhance your knowledge and well-being.

                  Reference

                  More by this author

                  Leon Ho

                  Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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                  Last Updated on January 2, 2019

                  Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

                  Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

                  The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

                  It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

                  To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

                  So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

                  1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

                  We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

                  Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

                  Stop focusing on the material objects

                  Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

                  Plan gifts in advance

                  We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

                  Suggest a better way

                  If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

                  Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

                  You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

                  Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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                  2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

                  It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

                  If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

                  How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

                  Here’s what you can do:

                  Set a healthier pattern

                  For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

                  Get a fitness watch

                  Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

                  Find a physical activity that you enjoy

                  Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

                  Try intermittent fasting

                  This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

                  Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

                  You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

                  3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

                  In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

                  But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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                  These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

                  Leave bigger intervals between meetings

                  If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

                  Plan time to relax

                  As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

                  Try to be a little pessimistic

                  We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

                  Try waking up earlier

                  Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

                  Plan your day the day before

                  Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

                  Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

                  If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

                  4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

                  If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

                  Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

                  Binge-watching TV series

                  Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

                  You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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                  Running on coffee

                  Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

                  As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

                  Procrastination

                  Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

                  Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

                  If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

                  Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

                  5. Stop over-consuming

                  We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

                  Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

                  • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
                  • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
                  • Can I rent it?
                  • Can I make it myself?
                  • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

                  For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

                  Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

                  6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

                  Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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                  But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

                  Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

                  Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

                  For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

                  Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

                  Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

                  Set your phone on flight mode

                  When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

                  Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

                  You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

                  The Bottom Line

                  As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

                  But this year, promise yourself this:

                  Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

                  Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

                  Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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