When I get into bed at night, I attempt to review my day. Did I have a good day? Have I been productive? Are there any positive changes that I need to make? This past Monday, I took a good honest look at my last 24 hours. The truth was that it was a day full of distractions. I struggled to focus and I accomplished very little. As I searched for the reason, I pushed myself to be honest with my behavior. The answer came to me…
I was addicted to my smartphone and it was getting in the way of my success.
I decided at that moment that I was going to make some changes. I suppose being licensed as a Mental Health Therapist has its advantages. I outlined a plan for the next day. I would check my email and all Social Media ONLY four times during the day. I would count each time that I had the mental urge to look on my phone or search on my computer. Each time that I would have this urge, I would tell myself to “let it go” and focus on my current activity.
I really didn’t expect this goal to be so difficult for me. I’m shocked to tell you that the first day was much harder than I ever imagined— I counted 46 times. Just think about that. 46 times, my brain signaled me to connect on Social Media. 46 times, my brain ran this loop and instructed me to pick up the phone.
No wonder I was having so much trouble focusing and accomplishing my goals! My brain had learned to be rewarded with the “ding” of an email and the excitement of a like or response from social media. My brain wanted more and more of that same reward.
In a study by the Associated Press, the average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. When you spend enough time on the Internet, the neural pathways in your brain change. You can become rewarded, not for staying on your task, but instead jumping to a more exciting thing. In other words, you can quickly rewire your brain.
It has been demonstrated over and over that your brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks. In the long run, multi-tasking causes you to accomplish less and run the risk of making multiple mistakes. On top of that, you have a much lower rate of retention.
If you’re looking at your phone 46 times in one day, it’s safe to say that you have formed a habit. Everyone knows that habits are hard to break since there is a payoff for continuing the behavior. In the short term, my behavior made me feel good. However, I knew that this unhealthy habit had to go.
Having awareness and recognizing that you have an issue is the first step to solving a problem. The interesting thing is that the first day I monitored my use and attempted to stop my behavior, I felt so much calmer, was able to focus and was definitely more productive.
I would be lost without my technology so I’m certainly not an advocate to disconnect. However, as with all things in life, moderation is key.
So I have a challenge for you. Take one day and limit your phone and social media use. Write down how many times that you get the urge to connect, and monitor how your overall productivity and how you’re feeling. Let me know how you do.