Phoning It In

By Robert Goldman

December 6, 2018 5 min read

It's decision time.

If you could only have one, which would you choose — your job or your smartphone?

It's a toughie, right?

Your job is a drag. It keeps coming between you and the life of leisure to which you aspire. Your smartphone is exciting and high-techy and absolutely integral to every aspect of the beautiful life you want to live. But it pays bupkas. In fact, it costs you — and that's even counting the 25 percent discount you received on your Nicolas Cage phone case from nicknacks.com.

And yet — you will have to decide, and fast.

Every day, more and more scientific studies reveal that having access to your smartphone can dramatically reduce your productivity, and let's face it, you really don't have much productivity to begin with.

Even with the best of intentions, giving in to the siren chirps of your smartphone can cost you.

"One study found that it can take up to half an hour to resume a task after being interrupted." Given how much time it takes you to start a task, those 30-minute lags could wipe out all your accomplishments for a decade.

I learned about the telephonic threat to your continued employment from a recent article in The New York Times by Tim Herrera. "Hide Your Phone When You're Trying to Work. Seriously." was the title. Seriously.

(Full disclosure — I read the article on my iPhone, but it kept crashing. I wonder if the snoopy snoops at Apple knew something was up.)

The article kicks off with a 2017 study in The Journal of the Association of Consumer Research that "found that the mere presence of your phone — even if it is powered off, and even if you're actively and successfully ignoring it — 'reduces available cognitive capacity.'"

Gauging the meager level of cognitive capacity with which are starting, that conclusion should definitely scare you.

The authors of the study call this phenomena "brain drain."

In other words, it isn't only the battery on your smartphone that's draining; it's your brain.

The same study determined that "the more you depend on your phone, the more your cognitive abilities suffer when it's around."

Even if your smartphone is hidden away in your desk drawer, almost impossible to reach under a pile of candy bars and "Django Unchained" action figures, the mere proximity of the device is enough to distract you from your work.

Think about it. How much time do you waste trying to figure out the purpose of the musical notifications that sound off in your pocket every five minutes? Is it a new email? A new podcast episode? A new price reduction on Nic Cage phone cases?

Whether or not you can resist taking a peek, your productivity is AWOL.

What's the solution?

You could toss the devil phone out the window or stomp it to smithereens with your little feet, but those options seem cruel. If your purpose is to separate yourself from your phone, why not put your smartphone in a warm and cozy Federal Express pouch and ship it off for a nice long vacation, basking on the talcum powder beaches of Bongo-Bongo.

After dealing with your nonsense for all these years, that smartphone has been through hell.

It deserves a nice vacay.

If you want to keep the phone out of your hands, locking it up is a viable strategy. An Amazon in-store delivery locker at Whole Foods is good place to leave your phone. Who knows? When you go back to pick it up, your smartphone could have been replaced with a pound of organic mung beans.

And no one has ever gotten in trouble at work for spending too much time with mung beans.

Once you have solved your problem of being distracted by your smartphone, it's time to ghost your laptop. Studies have also shown that using your laptop to take notes in meetings "impairs learning because their use results in shallower processing."

You could argue that the matters discussed in your department's staff meetings are so trivial that "shallower processing" is the only way to survive them.

This brings up a real danger in keeping your laptop and your iPhone in solitary confinement. With everyone else focused on these shiny tech toys, you are likely to be the only person in the meeting who is actually listening to what your manager is saying.

Now, that is scary. Seriously.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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