How Smartphones Damage Your Productivity...And What To Do About It

How many of you have your phone out on your desk right now?

Yup, caught you.

We are all guilty of it. Even if you are an Apple customer who has their laptop out all day long and linked to their cell phone, you probably still have your phone within arms reach at all times. God forbid you go to the bathroom and forget to bring it with you.

But why is it there, really? How is it serving you while you work on actual work-related projects on your computer?

Even though smartphones can improve productivity in a lot of ways (GPS, educational apps, communication apps, etc.), they are more often than not detrimental to our productivity.

Everyone's workdays are spent so differently all over the world that your phone could light up with a notification at any time of day from a million different sources.

Darius Foroux, an entrepreneur and blogger who focuses his work on exploring how we can live meaningful and productive lives, wrote a great post in which he explains that

"Smartphones are dangerous not only because they may cause stress, anxiety, and even depression, but because they change your behavior. People who make phones and apps are smarter than us and their only goal is to get you hooked."

This is how people - especially young people - form legitimate addictions to their phones and cannot imagine spending any down time doing anything but looking at the screen doing......something.....on it.

A few years ago, our community manager, Taylor, found himself spending forty-five minute to an hour at a time aimlessly scrolling or tapping through apps on his phone. But not doing anything. He says

"I felt like a zombie when I snapped out of it. I wasn't doing a single thing that was productive or meaningful. Just staring at whatever was on the screen. It wasn't healthy. But it taught me that I desperately needed something to help my brain zone out after a long day."

The owner of Work Hive, Mark, who owns multiple businesses himself, enjoys having an Apple watch on his wrist because "it lets me know when something needs my attention or needs to get done, but I can chose when to get back to that task" He goes on to state "Technology is not pure good or pure evil. It is as distracting as you let it be."

Along those same lines, Foroux made changes in his own relationship to his phone from which everyone can learn. He wrote that he:

  • turned off ALL notifications except messages and calls
  • removed himself from all extraneous Whatsapp groups 
  • removed all news apps 
  • only consumes music, paid journalism, articles from specific authors he follows, podcasts, YouTube videos, books, and audiobooks
  • uses his phone to call, text, and to take notes, photos and videos

Finally, and maybe most importantly, he "stopped immediately responding to notifications" when they come in. This is the most important consideration because this is the productivity trap: the perceived urgency that everything must be responded to and looked at in that exact moment.

Every person everywhere has so much stimuli flashing at them every second of the day, it's no wonder that productivity declines if your eyes are darting from one thing to another, demanding that our cognitive attention follows and that our thoughts shift to whatever the new subject is.

How does your phone affect your life? Does it distract you during the workday? Do you feel that it affects your productivity in a positive or a negative way?