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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 July 21, 2021

                  The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                  The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                  No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                  Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                  Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                  A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                  Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                  In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                  From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                  A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                  For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                  This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                  The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                  That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                  Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                  The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                  Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                  But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                  The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                  The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                  A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                  For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                  But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                  If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                  For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                  These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                  For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                  How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                  Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                  Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                  Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                  My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                  Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                  I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                  More on Building Habits

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                  Reference

                  [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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