Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone. Sure, my iPhone 6 helps me inform or entertain myself on the go, but it’s also a massive time-sink.
My relationship with my smartphone is decidedly mixed, so I spoke to Dr. Bob Schafer to see what I could do about it.
Schafer is the head of research at Lumos Labs. He also helped create the brain-training app Lumosity. This software offers more than 60 brain-training games and claims more than 95 million users around the world.
Schafer offered three steps for taking charge of my smartphone that busy yet distracted entrepreneurs can easily apply.
1. Exercise Mindfulness Over Your Smartphone Usage
Increasingly popular these days is taking a digital detox from a smartphone. That could start with going cold turkey for a few days or buying a dumb phone.
For many entrepreneurs, a longer digital detox is impractical, as they might rely on their device to contact customers or work on the go. I even need my device to log into online services, thanks to Google Authenticator.
Instead, Schafer suggests the first step starts with mindfulness.
“Know whether you have a bad relationship with your smartphone in the first place. It all starts with noticing when you’re on autopilot,” he said.
“You’re waiting for an appointment, and before you know it, you’ve whipped out your phone, and you’re scrolling through your social media feed.”
Is refreshing a social media app for the fifth time in ten minutes a good use of time? Probably not.
As another example, you might see a missed notification on your smartphone, click on it and forget why you picked up or unlocked your device in the first place. Schafter said:
“That’s serious autopilot right there. You’ve given up control of the driver’s seat … and you’ve surrendered it to whatever’s trying to capture you.”
“Catch yourself when you’ve fallen into that automatic mode, and start putting yourself back in charge of the relationship with your smartphone.”
2. Exercise Your Smartphone’s Superpowers
I tried using an old Nokia phone for a week and immediately missed listening to great podcasts and audiobooks while out for a walk.
I also missed Google Maps.
A dumb phone is good at making calls, but it’s lousy when you’re lost too.
“Your phone can bring you new information and knowledge from all over cyberspace, and that is an amazingly valuable thing, so there’s no need to cut it out entirely,” Schafer said.
Today, a smartphone is also great at teaching users how to meditate, learn on the go or even play mental challenges, all of which can keep you from a mental rut.
Your device’s superpowers are more useful than scrolling down your Instagram feed over breakfast.
“Most people’s jobs involve some, or maybe even a lot, of mental repetition, and after you retire it’s even easier to get mentally complacent,” Schafer said.
“So use your phone for something that it really shines at, which is bringing yourself a new challenge every day.”
3. Replace Bad Smartphone Habits With Good Ones
Many people check their smartphones first thing in the morning out of habit.
Or they reach for the device because it buzzes, whirrs and clamors for their attention, much like a Las Vegas slot machine.
It doesn’t help that many smartphone apps are built with habit formation in mind through colorful badges, notifications and virtual rewards.
Instead, consider replacing less useful smartphone habits with more productive ones.
For example, turn off social media notifications and replace them with ones to meditate, listen to an audiobook or play a brain training game.
Over time, your device will start to trigger impulses to focus, work or learn rather than procrastinate or escape.
“Your phone is a habit machine,” said Schafer. “It all comes down to what habits you want to form.”
Smartphones can help you become insanely productive or can help you waste an entire day. Consider what you want to achieve the next time you pick up your device.
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