Photo by Florian Klauer
Technology is great. It lets me get more work done in less time, I have a huge amount of information at my disposal every second of the day and just makes my life easier and more entertaining.
But we’re all guilty of it: when we have one spare second what do we do? We often reach for our smartphone or tablet, check our email, send out a quick text, check social media or do some random search on the internet.
And here lies the issue. I hate feeling bored. I’m pretty sure no-one likes feeling bored…and technology ensures that we pretty much never are! Isn’t it great to just pull out your smartphone and do something as opposed to aimlessly stare out into space?
Daydreaming is Necessary
Turns out, creativity and boredom are linked. Think back to all the ridiculous games you made up as a child when you were just bored out of your mind (if you were a technology-free child like I was). Creativity is the brain’s response to an unpleasant situation, and that’s when the best ideas are born.
The fact that we always have some kind of activity or information occupying our brains is not great for our creativity – in fact, it just may be destroying our imagination. These electronic stimuli “fill in the gaps” and leave no room for daydreaming.
…But I Can’t Live Without My Smartphone!
Yes, I hear you. I’m pretty sure we’re all attached to our smartphones, tablets and personal computers in a freakishly codependent way. If you think you can’t live without your smartphone, you’re really not alone. I would definitely freak out if I were to leave my phone at home for the day, although I’m pretty sure nothing life-changing or world-destroying would happen as a result.
So what to do? I’m still working on it but I have found a few solutions which seem to make a difference for me. I use these mental breaks to think about artistic projects I’m working on, but creativity applies to everyone and is useful no matter what field you work in.
Use the Right Apps
It’s shocking to think that most people use their phones about 4 hours every day! Apps like Moment (iOS only for now!) track the amount of time you use your phone and provide useful insights. You can set your maximum limit and Moment will warn you when you’re close to it and, if you want it to, it can also force you off you’re phone once you’re over your limit. It also tracks how many times you pick up your phone every day; the first day I used it, it registered 72 pickups!!! That’s absolutely awful! There’s also a phone bootcamp feature which I haven’t used yet, but I’ll be sure to review it soon.
Other apps such as Forest help you get work done while keeping you off your phone with visual motivation. Another great productivity app which can help you reach your goals is Habitica; for example, you could set a habit which says something like “less than 3 hours smartphone usage”, in combination with the Moment app.
If you commute to work or find yourself taking trains, metros and whatever else often, leave your phone in your bag. Read a book (thank you Kobo Glo!) or just do nothing, stare at people in front of you and daydream.
I bike to work often but it just felt too boring to do without music in my ears, so I always had headphones on. Now I avoid the headphones and just think about song lyrics or blog posts or whatever. It’s hard the first few times because we’re just not used to literally having nothing to focus our minds on – except road safety, please focus on that if you’re biking! – but it does get easier and more automatic. Ideas flow more freely and it’s relaxing to avoid thinking about work while going to work.
Reduce TV Time
Another tough one, I think. TV series and Netflix just seem to eat up time, and one episode just leads to the next which leads to the next and before you know it it’s 2 am! Plus, the fact that TV doesn’t require that much focus leaves so much time to reach for your smartphone.
Read a book! It’s much more stimulating for the brain and requires you to actually concentrate. I find myself reaching for my phone less if I’m reading a book rather than if I’m watching TV (even if it’s a movie!)
No Phone at Meal Times
How often do you chug down breakfast while checking emails? They can wait! Not only are you not relaxing and enjoying some of the best moments of the day, you’re probably not tasting your food either.
Not eating mindfully has even been linked to weight gain, so it’s best to leave your smartphone in your bag and engage in some healthy face-to-face conversation.
No Phone in the Bedroom
“But what about my alarm?!”, I hear you say. Well, remember those magical things called alarm clocks which people used to have when smartphones didn’t double as everything else but perhaps a coffee maker? Buy one. You can get one for really little just about anywhere; check on Amazon for great cheap picks!
As an added bonus, not having your phone or other technology in your bedroom will help you sleep better too, so you can wake up refreshed and ready for a super productive morning!