If you want to problem solve... put those phones away!

There is now a plethora of research showing the cost of being part of this permanently connected world.

Emails and phones are a source of constant stress and distraction. Phones on the table have been shown to reduce rapport, screen time has a serious impact on our sleep, the email alert is a constant distraction and latest research from HBR shows that the nearer our phone is to us the greater the cognitive impact on our ability to think and focus.

Yes that’s right - the proximity of a phone directly affects our thinking. The further away our phone is, the greater our ability to concentrate and to problem solve.

Where this gets really interesting is that it doesn’t matter whether the phone is on or off. It is the proximity alone that makes the difference. When they are nearby it is we who are on ‘stand by’, not our phones.

Phones are great, no question. But ... do we need to have them permanently nearby? Can we instead put them away and check them at the times that suit us? If we can’t take time out for meetings, focused work and giving full attention to the people we are with, then we have a serious problem on our hands.

In this hyper-connected world our ability to focus and get things done is becoming an increasingly rare and valuable commodity. It is one that we need to consciously nurture.


Some suggestions for reclaiming your focus:

- Turn your phones off and put them away for meetings.
- Turn your phone off and put it away when you want to do concentrated work.
- Turn your phone off and put it away when you are in a face to face conversation with a human being.
- Use aeroplane mode if you need other phone functions.
- During general office time turn your phones on silent and without vibration so they don’t impact on others.
- Check your phone periodically rather than being on constant standby, and for the times it may be off, give the landline number for true emergencies.


What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Helen Rees is Director of Frameworks for Change – a management company whose quest is to transform the world of work.

Photo credit: Unsplash