FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m just as guilty as the rest of us of most of what I’m about to discuss, so please don’t think I’m writing this from a “better than you” perspective 🙂
I’d be willing to bet that most of you are reading this on your phone right now. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, though. Smartphones have made the transfer of information and knowledge commonplace, and have allowed for maximum productivity across the globe.
However, there’s a fine line between your phone being a helpful companion, and it being an enslaving master that takes away from your overall life experience. There’s no denying the sheer awesomeness of being able to research almost anything we could possibly want to read about at the click of a button, but when our relationships with our phones start to take precedent over our relationships with family, friends, and ourselves, there’s a huge problem.
I’m not saying you should ditch your phone completely (especially since that would mean you wouldn’t be able to read this!), but when you loosen the grip your phone has on your life, you’ll start to experience:
1) Less Distraction.
Case in point: I was about to start writing this section when my phone buzzed, informing me someone replied to my Facebook status. A half hour later, I’m finally getting back to what I sat down to do in the first place.
Even if your phone only takes you away from your work or personal interactions for a split-second, that’s more than enough time for you to lose your train of thought. While you might feel as if your phone is allowing you to maximize your productivity by chiming in when your boss needs to reach you, you’re more likely to make mistakes while working on a task if you’re constantly splitting your attention between two or more points of focus.
Keep your phone on silent while you’re attending to other obligations. Schedule times throughout the day when you will allow yourself to check your emails and messages. By allotting a specific amount of time in which to check your messages and emails, you won’t waste time and energy constantly wondering if you missed a call or text. And you’ll realize that, for the most part, none of these messages are important enough to take you away from your work in the first place.
2) More Free Time.
Like I said before, I lost about a half hour of my life this afternoon when I got caught in a Facebook discussion that I really didn’t need to be a part of. Not only did I lose a half hour of time during my working day, but I’ll also lose a half hour of my evening catching up on work that should have already been done. This is time that could have been spent with my wife, family, or friends that I instead wasted scrolling through Facebook while waiting for people to respond to my messages. I don’t think I’m the only one this has happened to, either.
We often get so caught up using our cell phones that we don’t even realize how much time is passing by, with which we could be engaged in much more fulfilling activities. Our cell phones have become the “go-to” when we can’t think of anything better to do, or when we have ten minutes before our train arrives. Though ten minutes doesn’t seem like enough time to do much of anything else, they do add up over the course of our lives. In ten minutes, we could read a chapter of a book, and be done with it in a few weeks. In ten minutes, we could get a head start on the work we’ll have to do first thing tomorrow morning. Or, in ten minutes, we could try to get the high score in Crossy Road. Which sounds more fulfilling?
3) Richer Experiences.
This ties in with the last two points, in that we often become too distracted by our phones to enjoy whatever it is we’re actually doing. You’ve probably heard the saying “But first, let me take a selfie,” a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the fact that many of us, even when experiencing something incredible, are only thinking about how we’re going to share that moment on Instagram later. Ironically, even when we’re with friends, we become preoccupied with telling our other friends what a great time we’re having. I’m not saying that taking pictures at a memorable event or sharing these experiences with friends who couldn’t make it is a bad thing, but we should definitely be focusing on actually experiencing these events rather than living our lives through the shutter lens of our smartphones.
4) More Engaging Relationships.
I touched on this in the last section, discussing how some of us tend to ignore the people who are actually around us in favor of communicating with others through our smartphones. While it is absolutely amazing that we can stay in touch with friends who live in different area codes, states, or even countries, we also shouldn’t shut out the people we come into contact with on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, the advent of smartphones has removed the necessity to actively meet new people face-to-face, since we can always fall back on Facebook or Twitter conversations when we’re feeling lonely. In public, many of us simply take out our phones for the explicit reason of avoiding conversation with strangers. While small talk can be a little annoying sometimes, and we all have our times that we want to be left alone, opening yourself up to others can lead to limitless possibilities. The stranger you meet today might end up being a best friend, or more, tomorrow.