Take the smartphone challenge…

The Badger’s concentration often lapsed during dry presentations at corporate conferences. He was not alone judging by the extent to which those in audiences were always furtively using their smartphones rather than concentrating on the speakers. It’s still the same today. Indeed, our smartphone makes it difficult to maintain an optimal state of concentration on anything for a prolonged period. When it comes to concentration, the smartphone is not your friend. It’s a source of distraction that not only affects your mental productivity, but also encourages brain habits that are not in your overall interest.

This point arose in a conversation with an old friend who is a psychologist. Over a beer reminiscing about our careers, the Badger’s friend asked him to distil a frequent frustration during his career into just one word. The Badger scratched his head and eventually answered ‘procrastination’ because it always frustrated initiative, creativity, and productive progress. His friend grinned, said procrastination was a natural human reaction to things that seem difficult or challenging, and emphasised that it’s as common in general life as it is in business. Apparently, it happens when our inner energy to prepare, decide, and act, simply fails to overcome our inner resistance. The resulting inaction can frustrate and cause conflict with others.

Pointing to their smartphone, the psychologist said the device neither helped in reducing procrastination, nor helped to promote good life habits or personal productivity, because it disrupts our ability to concentrate. Frequent checking for emails, text messages, news items, and social media posts, during a task apparently disrupts our brain’s focus and hence our productivity. The Badger was sceptical, so his friend challenged him to ‘take the smartphone challenge’ . It would show that his brain could not only be retrained to be less dependent on the device, but also that his concentration and productivity would improve. The challenge was simple. Just turn your smartphone off for one hour, once or twice a week, and use that hour to do a specific task or a hobby. Continue for some weeks and you will notice that your concentration improves, your productivity in each timeslot improves, and that this regime becomes a new habit. It becomes embedded behaviour, and your brain benefits in doing tasks without the distraction of the virtual world. The Badger procrastinated in accepting the challenge, until his friend simply raised their eyebrows!

Now, some months after turning off his devices for an hour twice a week to write creatively using pen and paper, the initially sceptical Badger can report that the challenge works! It’s now embedded behaviour, and the concentration, productivity, and quality of output improvements have been obvious. So, don’t procrastinate, take the smartphone challenge yourself. If you give up or it doesn’t work for you, then this in itself tells you something about your willpower and the extent to which your brain has been affected by your own fear of missing out (FOMO) if disconnected from the virtual world.

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