How To Be Productive Again

Photo by My Paradissi

Lexi Tollefsen

Whenever there is the slightest bit of a lull in my day, I reach for two things: coffee and my iPhone. The coffee is for, well, obvious reasons — to provide a much-needed perk, a jolt that hopefully brings me out of my funk. I reach for my iPhone because that’s just what you do when you don’t know what to do. It’s become a reflex.

Once I’ve unlocked my iPhone, I take a second to scroll through one of my six social media apps to see if I can possibly find something more interesting than the snooze fest happening at my desk. As I start clicking around, liking various photos and getting distracted by the fourth person who posted a picture of their cat, what was supposed to be a short break turns into thirty minutes of me achieving nothing in cyber space.

I knew this would happen, because it happens everyday. The problem is, it’s become so frequent that it’s difficult for me to push through and focus on my actual work. The minute my mind isn’t working through anything in particular, my hand slowly reaches for my cellular distraction. It’s almost like my brain doesn’t know what to do when it’s not doing anything but being a brain.

This made me think: Have our phones become grown up pacifiers that keep us from experiencing the horrors of thinking and doing nothing? Have we become so used to always being plugged in and turned on that we are physically uncomfortable existing in a moment of silence?

On the surface, this is just a 21st-centuryreality; so much of our lives are tied up in the little devices we keep in our pockets and purses — our emails, our contacts, our calories — so it makes sense that we would turn to them multiple times a day. But if we dig a little deeper, my phone checking is a small representation of a bigger problem: We’ve become so obsessed with keeping busy, multi-tasking and staying occupied that we’ve lost sight of what it truly means to be productive in the real world.

Being productive is all about balancing work and relaxation, business and leisure. Because our phones have conflated the two — your email alerts can and will interrupt your text to a friend to confirm dinner plans — it’s hard for us to keep proper boundaries. As a result, we’re less likely to achieve anything concrete in either sphere, whether it’s finishing that presentation, getting or good night’s sleep or always answering that last email.

So here is what I propose: Let’s unplug and go back to basics. Let’s try going phone phone-free (or at least phone-limited) for a day or two to see if our productivity improves. During this tech hiatus, I challenge you to fill your time with simple things we miss out on when we’re constantly checking our phones.

Such as:

Sleep.

Our busy schedules and long to-do lists prevent us from properly winding down, which makes us tired and more likely to crave mindless activity (AKA phone checking). If you really want to see an improvement in your productivity, try snoozing a little longer than usual. Most importantly, create a sleep schedule that is consistent, so your body can get into a rhythm and better regulate itself. You’ll be so, so glad you did.

Mindfulness.

We often forget to stop and observe our surroundings. They impact us more than we think. How we’ve decorated our desk, the color of our bedroom walls, where we eat our lunch everyday — all of these things affect our mood, productivity and general sense of wellbeing. Use your phone break as an opportunity to ponder your space and how it influences your day-to-day. Pro tip: If you find your space needs a facelift, flowers are always a good solution.

Our health.

I’m mainly talking about water intake here. Sounds random? Think again. Think about what drives you to reach for your phone: boredom, stress, fatigue? All of these are signs of dehydration. When we don’t consume enough water, we’re less alert, more likely to be moody and feel generally crappy. Try keeping a glass of water by your desk and taking a sip when you would be checking your phone. Notice if you feel more energized than usual by the end of the day.

Old fashioned stuff.

Send a letter to a loved one. Make a to-do list with a pen and paper. Throw a dinner party. Write in your diary (or start one). Read a book. You’ll be surprised how satisfying doing something simple can be.

Sound easy enough? Let us know how it goes. We’re all in this together.

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Originally published at blog.onomie.com.