Be Smart, Go Dumb!
Updated: Feb 2
'Your phone is already an extension of yourself' is reported to have famously said Elon Musk. Well, he is right about that; but it's not necessarily a good thing!
There has been a lot of studies showing how digital technologies can negatively impact your mental health and contribute to damage some of your cognitive skills -attention and memory especially. As a writer, a smart phone always at hand can have yet another bad effect: seriously impede your productivity.
Of course, if you are someone who can easily turn off the distraction and don't have the compulsion to reach out for your phone to then lose yourself into mindless scrolling, checking, liking, gaming, and arguing on social medias platforms, ending up doing next to nothing in terns of actual writing, well, good on you! The sad thing is, most of us aren't, because most of us are addicted. We're addicted not because we are unable to manage our time properly, or, are too childish to have any sense of self-discipline (although addiction to technologies can truly be infantilizing) but because these devices were specifically designed to be addictive. In fact, considering how their overuse can rewire your brain, you could easily labelled them as being nothing short of digital cocaine.
The issue with smartphones is that they allow us to access everything 'right now' at the tip of a finger. All is 'in the moment', making it damn easy to get up to date with your emails and social medias feeds 'in real time'. Suh instantaneous feature might seem great. After all, what's wrong with being accessible anytime and anywhere? But they are not. They are not because they enslave you to the present moment, whereas a writing project (or any artistic endeavour, for that matter) is not a 'in the moment' act but a long-term journey. Writing requires you to project yourself into the future and work step by step towards a goal set up ahead in time. Such step by step working process towards a future achievement will not happen as planed if you remain enchained to the present. Put bluntly: being able to answer 'in real time' to the constant beeping of emails and medias feeds might be self-gratifying for your brain high on dopamine, but it does nothing for your writing career, suffering the consequences.
There may be some positive things to say about the overload of information defining our era. As individuals, however, we need to acknowledge that to be overloaded doesn't mean to be enriched. Smart phones, as great as they are at connecting us all, also are great at disconnecting us from ourselves and our long-term drives and ambitions -the core of a fulfilled creative life. Have you ever had this stressful mix feeling of frustration and anxiety coming with realizing you have wasted your time on internet instead of completing a writing task? The toxic compulsion to reach out for the pocket-size gadget is indeed a waste of precious time, and, as the clichés goes, it's time you will never get back.
Well, I for one don't have such feeling anymore! I decided to go for a radical solution: I ditched my smartphone, and opted for a dumb phone instead. Meet my new friend:
It hasn't been easy! I became a father again not long ago, and so I missed the camera feature to make pictures of my adorable little daughter every ten minutes. As a metalhead, I also missed accessing my Spotify whenever I wanted to. But, these inconveniences aside (I do have pictures of my child, and I do have access to Spotify on other devices) when it comes to my writing ambitions the positive outcomes far outweighed the negative ones.
To start with, I became more productive. No longer reaching out for the smartphone every 10-15 minutes or so to keep up with updates made me more focused, meaning that my ongoing projects not only have my full attention when I work on them, but, also, that I finish them on time. Ditching the smartphone also opened a whole set of opportunities. Since I spend less time on my phone, I have more time on my hands; and it's time I have been using to do other productive things -e.g. writing more poems, record more videos for my YouTube channel (which had been neglected until then), do research for more blog posts to come, working on more Forewords for emerging poets....
No smartphone to constantly check my feeds has seriously reduced the amount of time I spend on social medias too. This turned out to be a positive asset, as I can now also value the quality of my interactions instead of their quantity. Gone indeed are the mindless scrolling, arguing, dabbling, silly liking and sharing and other pointless chit chat diverting me from my work. I now spend a set amount of time on social medias, and then unplug. You bet I make such time productive!
If you want to increase your productivity, or, at least, get what you set yourself to do done on time, then I would advise you to do the same: detox from the digital cocaine. The compulsion to be responsive in the here and now may seem great. It surely is addictive. But, then again, being glued to a device 'in the moment' is nothing but a pocket-size yoke enchaining you to the present, whereas writing is about setting on an ongoing journey towards a future outcome. Broke the chains! Set yourself free! Unplug... And write!
Thanks for reading, and, if you want more advice on increasing your productivity as a writer, feel free to... subscribe to this blog! :-)