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Last Updated on September 1, 2017

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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                  The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                  The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                  It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                  Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                  “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                  In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                  New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                  There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                  So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                  What is the productivity paradox?

                  There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                  In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                  He wrote in his conclusion:

                  “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                  Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                  How do we measure productivity anyway?

                  And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                  In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                  But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                  In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                  But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                  Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                  Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                  There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                  According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                  Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                  The paradox and the recession

                  The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                  “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                  This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                  According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                  Looking forward

                  A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                  “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                  Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                  “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                  On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                  Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                  Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                  Reference

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