We all have those days when we easily get distracted by unimportant things, even though we have a deadline to meet or we are supposed to study for the finals. So you feel tired, stressed, and cannot really focus on the tasks you must complete soon. What can you do? Another 15 minutes of scrolling Facebook never killed anyone, right?
Distractions are normal; the question is what to do to focus again.
It would be a lie to claim that your smartphone is the only factor that causes distraction. We lose focus for various reasons. Just being tired or stressed is enough to make us incapable of getting some things done, but having our smartphones right next to us, when we struggle to deal with some duties, puts us at a great disadvantage. We would rather reach for the phone and kill some time instead of handling our issues, and that is a serious trap – scrolling social media platforms can go on for hours and does not help you regain your strength and focus.
According to the Global Web Index, the average time spent on social media was 2 hours a day just a few years ago. That included just platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Still, in fact, we also waste a lot of time checking our mailbox (twice a day is not enough – I would say about 8 times would be good), surfing the news, and gossip platforms (also several times during the day), check the calendar, play a game, take some photos, chat with friends… that is quite a list, right? Imagine how much time a day you spend with the smartphone in your hand.
Why do cell phones distract us so much?
There are many answers to that question, no doubt. Let us assume that you are working on an important project at school or at work. What is the biggest enemy of focus?
You may even put your smartphone in a drawer and get into work, but when you hear familiar beeping, you cannot resist – you look at the screen to check what just happened and if it is important. The problem with notifications is that almost all applications use them.
Some apps are set to silent notifications by default (as Instagram), and you can turn them on if you want. But many mailboxes and other applications have loud notifications, and you have to put your phone into silent mode or look for a way to turn it off in the respective settings for each and every app (in some cases, it may take some time to find the right checkbox). But regardless of whether we have our phone in silent mode or not, we still get distracted easily when we can reach for it at any time.
A study by the University of Texas was published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. The scientists proved that having a mobile device nearby (in a drawer or in your purse) even with the silent mode turned on may affect our focus.
Free games for mobile phones, meme platforms, and news websites simply exist to make us waste more time each day. It is quite understandable that when we deal with difficult tasks, and we get tired, it is easy to take a short break for “only 15 minutes!”. You surely know that this often turns into half an hour, and half an hour into an hour, and suddenly you realize that you have not done anything significant that day.
Even if you are strong enough to put the phone down after 15 minutes, having this break will not help you get more focused. Instead, you will be thinking about the article you have just read or how good it would be to carry on with doing “nothing”. Fighting this temptation often requires so much strength or will that after finishing work we reach for some silly games again. That is why the idea of a minimalist phone is gaining popularity. Many people wish to go offline for at least a part of the day.
Nowadays, we can have many office applications on our phones – CRMs, CMSs, mailboxes, analytic tools, social media applications, a system for invoicing, and many others. Can those be distracting? Of course. You are reading a long email from your boss, but at the same time, you get an answer from a customer via the Facebook company’s site. You are trying to read the message from the boss again, and then you see new tasks in the CRM. It is very difficult to stay focused on one thing.
Organize your work carefully, so you can go offline for 2 hours during a day, not receiving any calls, not answering emails, not checking the CRM, just focusing on one complex task to get it done properly.
Just turn off your phone sometimes and put it away. You will soon realize you are much more productive without it.