John Cleese once said, “We don’t know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops.” Indeed.
And I’m pretty sure you don’t get your great ideas staring into your smartphone. Electronic devices have become a great distraction. Moments of brilliance are hard to come by when your brain is distracted.
Smartphones are ubiquitous. Many people seem addicted. One study even found that 68% of people place their phones next to their beds while sleeping.
Smartphone addiction has a name – nomophobia. This term was created by British researchers in 2008 to identify people who experience anxiety when they have no access to mobile technology. Nomophobia has its first recovery center in southern California.
Needing “anything” in order to feel at ease or normal is technically a disability.
Remember, your brain wires to be good at what it does. If you spend a lot of time being distracted, your brain gets good at being distracted. Neuroplasticity cuts both ways.
What price is paid?
Your creativity and self-reflection suffer, and great ideas become scarce.
Studies show that down time, even boredom, is good for your brain. We all need more of it. When a momentary gap appears in your day, instead of mindlessly reaching for your phone, mindfully let your mind wander.
Eureka moments usually come during periods of inactivity.
I wonder what would have happened if Isaac Newton had been on his smartphone sitting under the tree? He probably would have fired off an angry tweet about falling apples hitting his head. Instead, he came up with a great idea.
Create some blank space in your day, and your brain will likely respond with a great idea or two.
Seth Godin recently had a great post on five steps to mental hygiene:
“Washing your hands helps you avoid getting sick.
“Putting fattening foods out of your reach helps you stay slim.”
And the provocations and habits you encounter in the digital world keep you productive (or drive you crazy):
- Turn off mail and social media alerts on your phone.
- Don’t read the comments. Not on your posts or on the posts of other people. Not the reviews and not the trolls.
- De-escalate the anger in every email exchange.
- Put your phone in the glove compartment while driving.
- Spend the most creative hour of your day creating, not responding.
Each habit is hard to swallow and easy to maintain. Worth it.
Terry Small is a brain expert who resides in Canada and believes that anyone can learn how to learn easier, better, faster, and that learning to learn is the most important skill a person can acquire. To connect with him, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Brain Bulletin articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 25 April 2015