When Smartphones Begin to Outsmart Us


We love our smartphones. There’s no denying it. In fact, we love them so much, we never want to put them down. Most of us constantly check for text messages, emails, and the latest Tweets and Facebook updates at all hours of the day, whether we’re in a meeting, at lunch with a friend, or just at home in front of the TV.

Of course, it’s easy to justify our smartphone love. They help us get more done. They allow us to stay plugged-in to what’s going on at the office. They help us organize our schedules, remind us when to pick up our dry cleaning, and manage our growing social networks. But, our smartphone obsession comes with a definite downside. They may be making us less rather than more smart and productive.

Being overly tapped into what’s happening on our smartphones isn’t a good thing. It prevents us from making the most of a networking event because we’re texting and emailing the whole time. We suffer burn out from always being plugged into work, and as a result, our overall productivity suffers. Our relationship-building skills suffer because we aren’t used to communicating with people face to face. And in some respects, we stop thinking. For example, if your smartphone died, would you know when your next meeting was, what time your flight was leaving, who’s supposed to pick up the kids from school today? I know plenty of people who wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong: when used responsibly, smartphones can be great tools. But I think many of us would admit to allowing them to take over our lives. As a result, we miss out on the opportunities that are happening right in front of us. And it shouldn’t be that way.

Take back your brain with a strategic approach to cell phone usage. Here are 5 easy steps to help you recover your common sense and rediscover what it means to be productive:

#1 Turn off cyberspace.

There’s no greater blow to productivity than breaking your concentration to reply to an email or text as soon as it hits your smartphone. If you’re doing nothing but responding to emails and texts, you’re bouncing around like a pinball. It’s also important to keep in mind that the purpose of email and texts is not to generate more email and texts. Unless a response is necessary in order for the sender to move ahead on a task or project, it’s okay to let them have the last word. The more you’re connected to your smartphone the less you’re connected to yourself and the important task at hand.

#2 Tame the social media beast.

Smartphone apps make it fun and easier than ever to read our friends’ status updates and see the photos they’ve posted on Facebook. It makes us feel good when they “like” something we’ve posted or when we’re tagged in one of their photos. That’s one reason social media is so addicting—it’s like experiencing human hugs all day long. Now that you understand why you like it, it’s time to tame the beast and take back your time.

#3 Turn off the lights and your phone.

More and more of us are using our smartphones as watches and alarm clocks, keeping it plugged in to recharge on the bedside overnight. So long as your phone is plugged in, so are you. Take a break from your phone. If it’s by the bed you’ll get those late night calls, tweets, and texts that interfere with precious sleep. Plus, the easier you can reach your phone, the more likely it becomes that you’ll check email in the middle of the night and find something that will really disturb your sleep. Unless there’s a likelihood of an emergency, we have three rules in our house that we absolutely follow. The first is no smartphones in the bedroom. If someone dies overnight, the situation will be the same in the morning, and we’ll be rested and ready to deal with it.

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