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Device Distraction. How To Focus and Be Smarter With Technology

 That Device is Distracting You

Turns out we're not only distracted by our devices, a new study shows that just having a smartphone in site- takes up precious brain space and can effect our memory and intelligence.

The Mere Presence Of A Smartphone Takes Up Space In Your Brain and Means Lower Test Scores

Researchers from the McCombs School Of Business at The University of Texas at Austin conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure how well subjects did on assignments when their cellphones were present.

 Adrian F Ward and co-authors concluded that even when  phones were off, turned over and silenced, if the cellphone was in the room, they were on the the subjects mind-"leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive capacity."

Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention-as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones-the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. 

Check out these charts, they're showing what happens with cognitive abilities when the cellphone is in various locations. The left graph highlights Memory Capacity. The right graph shows Fluid Intelligence scores.

Here's the scary part: Even with phones off, sounds off, phones turned face down they were still distracting!  

  • The bar on the left was when phones were off and face down on the desk.
  • The middle bar had phones off and in bags or backpacks
  • The bar on the right had phones out of site, in another room
  • clear your front screen! 

The Device Distraction Study Worked Like This:

800 students were given tests requiring their full attention. To begin, all phones we're toggled to"silent." Some kept their phone near them, and others were asked to move their phone to another room. Those with the phone in another room "significantly outperformed" others on the tests.

The More You Love The Device, The More Distracting IT Is!

The research showed that the more the students loved or needed their phones, the more they were distracted by them.. The reason why is that smartphones occupy in our lives what's called a "privileged attentional space" similar to how our brains perceive the sound of our own names being called out- you know the feeling of being involved in something and hearing your name called out or someone talking about you--we'll that's similar to how your phone-within in eye-shot is calling out to you!

To Get It Done Right, Focus On The Task At Hand With Your Cellphone Safely Tucked Away in Another Room




faraday bag

That way they're off-the-grid and EMF Radiation free too.

The More You Love Your Phone And Need To Be Near It-The More You're Distracted By It

A earlier smaller study done by authors Russell Clayton, Glen Leshner and Anthony Almond found frequent smartphone users had anxiety from not being able to answer the phone when hearing it ring, which also led to poor performance on tasks.  In this case the testers had to do word search puzzles.  And interestingly they found that having urges to answer the phone did not correlate to poor test performance.

The researches said this about iPhone distraction:

We acknowledge that the more separation anxiety one experiences the more distracting their ringing iPhone may be while completing a task. In contrast, we believe that if one does not experience cell phone separation anxiety from his or her iPhone, the ringing of their iPhone would be less of a distraction, if at all.


The take away was that more separation anxiety one experiences the more distracting their ringing iPhone will be  while they try to work on something. But, they pointed out, if separation anxiety isn't an issue- the ringing of their iPhone would be less of a distraction, if at all.  

Device Distraction At Work

What do you do? Do you insist that your employees keep their phones inside their desks? What is your work policy?

Employees in a study last years said that the benefits of being less distracted were actually so good!

  • Get more done and more productive
  • Happier at Work
  • Motivated to do their best
  • more confident in their ability to do their job well
  • Deliver Higher Quality Work

Udemy did a great Distraction In The Workplace Study last year and found

Technology Is The Number One Distraction At Work

Turns out the most distracting social media distraction is Facebook

Top 3 Things That Employers Did To Stop Distraction:

  • Turn off Phones During Work Hours
  • Music Meditation and Other Relaxation Techniques
  • Fill Time With Simple Tasks That Don't require Focus

At our company, we actually love the idea of "Walking Meetings." We go outside, take a walk and talk about whatever the meeting topic is.  It's nice, refreshing, relaxing and helps us switch it up for focus.

Tech distraction social media at work

The Technolgy Distraction-Superficial Learning Dilemma

Manfred Spitzer who wrote Digital Dimentia says the smartphone cognition effect is two fold.  He says when we're working on our phones or computers, we're not retaining information the way we should in order to really remember it.

"Coordinated stimuli using touch, feel, smell because holistic input allows all the senses to truly combine all the elements of learning for the brain to process.  Just seeing a flower is nothing like actually holding, smelling and feeling the flower in order for the brain to develop properly. In order to use computers you need knowledge, you don't get knowledge from a google search. You need knowledge to sift the correct info needs to sifted out."


Cellphone Distraction At School

The cellphone distraction study along with other studies showing lower test grades and concerns about cyberbullying have convinced some schools to ask that distracting cellphones stay home from school.

The entire country of France has banned cellphones from schools and A new Law In California Asks Public and Charter Schools to do the same.  Read more about cellphones in schools

    Our attention spans have been transformed and rewired by Technology

    There's no doubt. Think about the time that you got your first smart phone. It was probably around the year 2000, right? Well, Microsoft did a study and they found that the average attention span to focus on a task went from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to less than 8 seconds in 2013--a goldfish can focus better than that! 



    longer attention span goldfishThe study showed the correlation between Cell phones and attention

    •  77% of 18-24-year-olds said, "When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone," as opposed to only 10% of 65 + year olds who tend to do that.
    • Almost 80% of those same young people said they often use devices while watching TV
    • 42% of seniors; 37%  of all participants say that they don't make the best use of their time so sometimes they have to work late nights or on the weekends.

    That makes sense. Distracted people don't make the best time managers.

    Turns out that while tech use is pushing our attention spans down--our ability to multitask and concentrate in short bursts goes UP. So good right??  Well, the true value of being able to multi-task is controversial to psychologists at best. Yet, that still doesn't address the whole point of attention span. What's the science behind all of this?

    The thrill of finding something new often connected consumers jump off one experience into another. The 'feel good" neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released when consumers are doing something they find rewarding. ~ Microsoft advertising, Canada

    People aren't going to throw away their smartphones, delete IG nor give up Google, so what can we do about our ever-shortening ability to concentrate?


    1) Put your phone in a different room when you really want to concentrate 

    As the study above reveals,  the mere presence of your phone in the same room as you will lead to distraction and less productivity. To get those important tasks done quickly and correctly, focus on what is at hand with your cell phone safely tucked away in another room. You can even place it in this handy charging station. It's like magic! 

    2) Take a Break From Technology

    A digital detox can give you great perspective and relax your mind. Whether it's hourly, daily, or weekly, get into a rhythm of unplugging and reconnecting with your heart.  

    Carve out an hour (or more!) and declare it “tech-free hour”. Spend this time creating new things like poetry, funny speeches, interesting and zany characters, or just read a book.

    During this time, let your brain relax with some nature exploration or manual writing.  You may want to try our beautiful letter press Creative Kits- they can help you and your kids enjoy the real world and the deeper connections your mind will create.

    Hear, touch, taste, see, smell, and feel the magnificent world around you. Go slow and savor everything.

    3) Set auto notifications 

    Do you ever feel stressed about fully unplugging because you are nervous your miss an important text or call? Did you know that your iPhone can handle your texts for you with a great Do Not Disturb message? Set your phone to auto reply and just relax. I give you the step by step instructions here

    4) Turn off notifications 

    How do you expect to stay focused when a new notification pops up every few minutes? You aren't super human! Are all of those notifications necessary? I doubt it! Try turning off as many notifications as possible and only keep the ones that are truly necessary to see in the moment. 

    5) Go Grayscale 

    Your phone is actually designed to addict you - all of the bright lights and shiny colors trigger dopamine releases and keep you coming back for more. An easy solution? Take away those distracting colors by going grey scale. Learn how here

    6) Delete unnecessary apps 

    Yes, I really said that. Take control over the “manipulated engagement” an app may be exercising over you.  So, right now, try it. Just start with one. One that you know you’re using altogether too much and that’s not really adding to that amazing, full, meaningful life of yours or your kids. It can’t be that tough and it's a start to a less distracting and more purposeful device. 

    7) Clear your front page 

    What’s the first thing you see when you open your phone? The 10 texts you got since you last checked? All those emails left unanswered? A notification about that sale that only lasts for today!? What if instead you saw a clear screen with a lovely  peaceful wallpaper of your choice. 

    Not sure how to make this happen? Just hold down one of your apps for a few seconds and you’ll have the option to drag and drop your apps to the next page over. Pro tip: Populate the second page with just the apps that you use on a daily basis so you can minimize distractions from all the others!  ⠀

    8) Use an analog alarm clock

    Often times we wake up and go to bed full of distraction. Using our phones as an alarm not only exposes us to EMF Radiation, but also makes it nearly impossible to create mindful rhythms of intentionality in our days. 

    Instead, try an analogy alarm clock. We love this one that is EMF and Blue light free! 

    no emf alarm clock

    9) Connect with Family and Friends 

    Socialization is a vital part of our lives. It boosts our mood, helps us learn more, and teaches us to expand our perspective.

    Manfred Spitzer write in Digital Dementia "When you use the computer, you outsource your mental activity." He then connects lack of mental activity with fewer social skills, "The more time you spend with screens, the less your social skills will be."

    So, head outside and talk to people. Laugh with them. Talk about something fun and interesting like the internet!

    10) Take back control by setting a schedule 

    We all need technology to get through our every day loves. But what if we took back control of our time and minimized distraction but telling our phone what to do - instead of the other way around.

    I do this by setting a tech schedule - 20 minutes on social media here, 20 minutes for the news there, an hour to catch up on emails - When I have an intention behind my tech use, it's much easier to stay focused! 

    Practicing mindfulness and discipline really is a proven practice here. Set break times of uninterrupted work chunks and then reward yourself in 45 min increments when you've successfully concentrated without distraction. You can gradually increase your work times.

    Stay on task and whenever something you want to check out pops into your head, just jot it down on a piece of paper. Because we have an infinite amount of information at our fingertips, we are more likely to look something up the minute we wonder about it...and perhaps falling into a wormhole of Googling. 

    We also love this great little Timer.  It helps us stay focused on the task hand. Without our cellphones!

    distraction timer


    Reward yourself for looking it up when you are done your work. Remind yourself that paying attention pays off.

    At Tech Wellness, we're all about solutions, so here's one that I'm happy to share: I find a nice daily detox starts in the bedroom and reaps wonderful benefits. No technology.  No phones. No TV. 

    Try making this one space in your home your sanctuary.  Your special peace place.   No screens between you and your me time, rest time, intimacy time. 

    You might find it quite lovely and a nice way to ease into a Daily Digital Detox. And maybe, just maybe up that attention span, count with me . . . 1  . . . 2... .3 . . .4. . . .5. . . .6. . . 7. . .

    There's nothing better than hushing all your buzzing notifications, silencing your mind, and unplugging for a bit. 

    xo August


    Here's the research

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