Cell phones have completely revolutionized the way we communicate and interact with our family and friends. They’re great — they enable us to call AAA when we have a flat tire, stay up to date on what’s happening in the nation’s capital, and dote over the neighbor’s adorable baby cooing on Facebook.
But as much as we love them, our relationship with our phones can turn sour when we allow them to control every aspect of our lives. Having a good work-life balance is extremely important for our health, and our phones are continuously blurring that line more and more. Whereas cell phones used to exist solely for calling and messaging, they’ve really embraced the name change to smart phones and can now manage anything you could think of — banking, shopping, fitness, work, and even water intake with apps that remind you to hydrate throughout the day.
This kind of privy access into the most important and intimate parts of our lives can become invasive, and before you know it, your cell phone can start to kill your productivity at work.
Phones allow an unprecedented amount of multitasking.
Being able to multitask at work sounds helpful, right? Wrong. Constantly glancing at your screen when it lights up or hearing a faint buzz from a notification is bound to interfere with your productivity. Receiving a text at work increases your chance of making an error by 23%. Even just having your phone off sitting next to your laptop can decrease your efficiency. To eliminate distractions, keep your phone on silent or do not disturb and tuck it away out of sight.
We seek pleasure and reinforcement from our phones.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Dopamine means enjoyment, and your brain’s dopamine responses cause you to seek out behavior that will reward you with pleasure. Research shows that using our phones now amps up our dopamine levels — we crave notifications and reward ourselves with positive reinforcement on social media. It’s easy to become obsessed with checking notifications to send dopamine levels soaring rather than focusing on work.
Phones make it easier than ever to take your work home with you.
This scenario is probably all too familiar. You leave the office at 5:30, ready to go home, put your feet up, and finally relax. But once you get home, instead of using your time to unwind, you suddenly find yourself scrolling through endless emails from your boss and finishing up projects. At InHerSight, we know how important it is for mental and physical health to maintain a good work-life balance. Try to leave work at work once you leave the office! Everyone deserves a break.
Realistically, what should you do going forward?
It’s different for everyone — some employees genuinely need their phones to do their jobs effectively. But if you’re finding yourself picking up your phone and mindlessly scrolling through your feeds, it’s probably time for a change.
Block off a few minutes in the middle of your day to respond to calls or texts. Scheduling a specific time to check your phone can wield off the urge to pick it up throughout the day by habit.
Ironically, there are also a few mobile apps you can download that are designed to help you stay on task. Try Forest, an app where you set a timer and lay your phone down. During the time period you specify, you won’t be able to check messages, answer calls, or browse social media. If you don’t touch your phone, you grow a tree. The point of the app is to build a forest of trees that symbolize your productivity.
If that’s not for you, simply zip it away in your bag or store it safely in another room so you won’t have the temptation staring at you from your desk.
By Cara Hutto
Born and raised a Tar Heel, Cara Hutto is a culinary aficionado and zealous writer consumed by wanderlust. She's passionate about women's issues and interviewing inspirational women in her community.