By Allana Akhtar for Business Insider US
Being on your phone at work, once the sign of a bad employee, is now the norm.
Text messages are “making deep inroads” in workplaces across America, says Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen. Yet messaging your boss can lead to accidental texts like “Love you” or “pumpkinbear.”
“While email helps silo work communications, the text inbox is a more blended affair, where notes from friends and family jostle with communiqués from bosses and co-workers,” Chen writes.
Besides awkward text exchanges, there are other miscues many employees can make as smartphones become more commonplace at work. For instance, overusing your phone or constantly getting bombarded with notifications can lead to decreased productivity.
“Productivity is often at its apex during a flow state,” when a person is fully immersed in an activity, NYC-based psychotherapist Jordana Jacobs told Business Insider.
According to Jacobs, while phones are great for the technology they provide, they also feed into our natural distracted state. Cell phones take us out of the flow state, “which is so fundamental to productivity,” she said. “Essentially, we are consistently interrupting our own thought process,” she said. To put it simply, our phones “take us away from ‘the now,'” she added.
It’s probably not plausible for you to get rid of your phone at work completely, but you can still take steps to keep it from getting in the way of your goals.
The first step to being more productive is identifying all the ways our phones keep us from staying focused. Jacobs and Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” broke down the phone habits that are ruining our productivity:
Mindlessly checking emails harms productivity
According to Jacobs, smartphones take us out of being in the present. When we’re constantly checking those work and personal emails, she said it puts us in the mindset of, “I’m doing this rather than just being where I am now.”
Constantly taking photos can keep you from being in the moment
One of the perks of today’s smartphones is that they double as high-quality cameras.
While it’s great to want to take a picture here and there to have a keepsake of a particular moment, Jacobs said that playing paparazzi in our own lives is another way of taking us from living in the now.
Checking social media distracts us from the actual task
Social media can feed our obsession with other people’s lives, but Jacobs said it’s also a platform for us to brag to our followers about what we are doing or have done.
Texting others keeps you from conversing with people around you
Jacobs said that texting and messaging other people can have you more focused on what those people are currently doing, causing a distraction from anything productive that you should be achieving.
Having your phone out all the time keeps you from prioritising
Jacobs said she believes that we have lost the capacity to be alone.
“We now think of the phone as our primary attachment figure; all of the people we know and love live in the phone, that’s how we talk to them,” she said. “We never actually have space by ourselves to contemplate, reflect, or gain insight into the self, in the way we used to be able to.”
Knowing and growing ourselves can be the most productive work we do, and our phones often get in the way of this.
Productivity apps can help and hurt your efforts
While Alpert does think that there are some productivity apps that can be helpful, he said he believes that relying solely on them or downloading the wrong one can actually do the opposite. According to him, the best way to stay productive is to have the right mindset.
“How someone thinks can significantly impact their behaviors, drive, and ultimately their output,” he said. “People should feel encouraged that developing a go-getter mindset is possible.”
Notifications on your screen can be distracting
Alpert said many people do, and these notifications – whether it’s a text message or news alert – can distract you from finishing whatever work you have started. He suggested shutting off social media notifications completely. “These merely serve as a distraction and probably don’t contain anything urgent,” he said.
Opening one app can leads to opening another
With apps, the internet, and other features of smartphones, you can easily find yourself going down a deep rabbit hole of distraction.
“Rarely do people go online or on their phones and stick to the intended reason for checking their phones,” he said. “If they’re checking weather, that might then lead to checking email, messages, or reading a news story – all this serves as a gross distraction and impacts productivity.”
The blue light emitted by your phone impacts sleep quality
According to Alpert, the blue light that is emitted from devices can affect our sleep patterns.
“Blue light is thought to enter the brain through the eyes and impact the pineal gland. This gland plays a role in melatonin production, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles,” he said. “So devices used close to bed could impact someone’s ability to get proper rest.”
This will have a profound effect on mood, energy levels, and ability to focus and complete tasks, he said.
Since we can look up anything we may be losing the ability to wonder
This one may not be expressly related to productivity, but it is still concerning.
Jacobs said we have lost our ability to wonder, because we can pretty much look up whatever we need to – the answers to every burning question we may have are always right at our fingertips. “I think this truncates the creativity process and stunts our imaginations,” she said.