The Unintended Distraction of Phones

The debate on how cell phones are impacting our lives continues to be lively. Personally, I have struggled to learn the discipline to use my technology productively. In fact, I’ve checked my phone three times since I started writing this post. My phone has literally become an extended body part. Some of my favorite hours of the day are when I’m running and I leave my phone in the car because “it’s too heavy” and “it’s too distracting”. What is it that makes us so addicted to staying connected? Perhaps it’s our fear of missing out (FOMO). Then again, sometimes it just seems to be for no apparent reason.

I recently read an article by Nicholas Carr posted in The Wall Street Journal titled “How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds”. I’d recommend the read. We all know phones can be a distraction, but this article digs into the severity and persistence of the problem. As one example, according to data collected by Apple, the average owner pulls their phone out and uses it around 80 times a day.

After reading the article, I decided to test myself. As an Operations Trainer in training, I left my phone face up for an hour. Without even thinking about it I actually grabbed for my phone 3-5 minutes after putting it down in the first place. What I noticed was that grabbing for my phone, regardless of if I had received a notification or not, seemed like an automatic response. I then checked my phone around 10 times the next hour, mostly just lighting the home screen to see if there were notifications or not, but sometimes actually opening apps and checking email. I was surprised that my phone was such a distraction in my professional life. I even tried to turn the phone face down, but it still seemed to be just as distracting. What I noticed was that I was actually bored every time I checked my phone. I had been through the training once before already and had mentally checked out for certain sections without realizing it. The second I felt like I could take a break, I checked my phone. I even carried it with me anytime I left and anywhere I went.

I ultimately decided that having my phone nearby, even if it wasn’t vibrating or sending notifications, was just as distracting as actually being on my phone. I’m sure that I am not the only one who has this experience. This reminded me of the importance of creating an environment that is engaging, especially when training. If I see trainees checking their phones, I’ll be sure to re-evaluate how the material is presented

To read the article by Nicholas Carr, click here.

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