Four Questions to Find your Focus
Research by Ofcom suggests that we check our phones every 12 minutes and that 71% of us never switch them off.
There is plenty of evidence that being “always on” has downsides – in our productivity, our ability to concentrate and even in our mental health. Now a study has suggested that the most plausible cause of wellbeing decline in young people is increased screen time.
There is plenty of advice in books, articles and apps on how to switch off to regain focus. We know what we should do – reduce screen time, accept we can’t multi-task, practice mindfulness – but something prevents us. I think there are two factors in play:
Smartphones as displacement activity: Human beings are very good at being busy on easy things when they are supposed to be doing something more difficult. Doing email and being active on social media is rather like a comfort blanket – it makes us feel ok that we are busy, even though the activity is not as important as the other things we could be doing. And afterwards we have a nagging sense of dissatisfaction.
Smartphones as instant gratification: When we get notifications from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we can’t resist having a quick look, hoping for good news or something exciting. We are often disappointed, yet we optimistically repeat the behaviour next time the phone pings. Before email, we used to wait for letters to fall through the letter box hoping for something good – a lottery win, news from an old friend – but were invariably disappointed by the bill or junk mail that flopped on to the mat instead. The difference now is that the postman only calls once a day while notifications are constant, so we can be constantly disappointed.
There is no easy fix for the downsides of our always on habit. If you want to reduce your screen time, you need to find your own burning platform – what will make you really want to do it?
Here’s a thought: we have deep-seated social needs – to feel that we matter, that we are respected and that people like us – and we have corresponding fears when these needs are not met. These needs and fears seem to be exacerbated by social media, making us believe that we have to be always “on” and in contact with others.
Finding other ways to meet these needs and allay the fears is the key to finding your focus – what would help you to feel significant, competent and likeable, without being always on?
Here are four questions to ask yourself:
- How is being “always on” helping me?
- How is being “always on” hindering me?
- How could I get those positive feelings and benefits without being always on?
- What else can help me to feel significant, competent and likeable?
Working out some answers to these questions, will give you your own burning platform for change!