Limited smartphone usage can promote increased productivity

Opinions Columnist | Healthcare Administration Senior

Students should make a conscious effort to occasionally unplug themselves from smartphone technology, as doing so can boost individual productivity as well as appreciation for the simple things in life.

When people use their smartphones, a wealth of resources instantly become available to them. People can communicate with anyone from just about anywhere and, because of the Internet, news travels as fast as lightning. Smartphone technology is positive in many respects, but it has its drawbacks.

People frequently use their smartphones while performing other tasks. Many smartphone users may browse the Web or text while watching TV or even when sitting at a dinner table with others. Such multitasking has become increasingly common with the growing ubiquity of smartphones. Multitasking has become the new normal, and the urge to constantly take in content has come to consume everyday life.

Most students have likely been in the situation where they opened their phone to respond to a message and somehow ended up on an hour-long scroll through Facebook. The badges and chimes become an addiction and time spent online becomes compulsive and disruptive, mostly because multitasking itself only splits students’ attention rather than allowing them to focus on one thing at a time.

According to a Psychology Today article, multitasking is referred to as an illusion. When people attempt to multitask they actually only switch focus between multiple tasks. In fact, researchers use the term “task switching” to refer to what we describe as multitasking. Surprise, surprise— the American Psychology Association reports task switching can cost people as much as 40 percent of productivity.

Unplugging from smartphone technology for a day is a practical way to clear one’s mind. According to Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, people can allow their minds the opportunity to rest and slow down when they disconnect from technology.

Restricting smartphone technology use allows the chance to enjoy cognitive breathing space. People have become so obsessed over every smartphone notification that they cannot enjoy actual physical interaction. Unplugging from smartphone technology affords students the chance to appreciate simplicity.

Shlain pointed out at a TEDx event that when people are online they tend to perceive everything as operating quicker and time as moving faster yet, ironically, the work never seems to end. Consider this—a 2013 UC San Diego study found people on mobile devices solicit more than 15 hours worth of digestible media each day. This means that people today attempt to consume more content each day than did any other generation in history.

Unplugging indefinitely does not need to be phase one of transitioning to hermit status. Students need not resort to the carrier pigeon—unplugging on occasion for anywhere from a day to an hour is all the break that is needed. Simply putting the smartphone down for a small period can help students boost their productivity and appreciate the simpler things in life.