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Why checking your phone is slowing down your life

A conversation with one of my patients.

‘How often do you check your phone?’
‘Maybe every 5-10 minutes.’
‘What?! Really?’
‘Yer, is that a lot?’ with a surprised look on their face.

Excessive and unnecessary screen time can be in the form of a binge (i.e. scroll social media for 3 hours) or frequent intermittent snacking (i.e. check your phone every 5 minutes). Screen time snacking has an immense cost. The cost of switching attention back and forth from a screen, could be one of your biggest barriers to a happy, healthy and high performing life.

The following is a powerful exercise. It completely shifted my mindset on attention and focus. Please do it.

It will take you about 3 minutes to complete. It will give you much more time back in return. 

1) Go get a timer. 

2) Recite the alphabet from A through to Z as fast as you can. Time yourself. How long did it take you? Write it down. 

3) Recite the numbers from 1 through to 26 as fast as you can. Time yourself. How long did it take you? 

4) Now alternate between 1 letter of the alphabet and 1 number until you get to the number 26. For example, A1 B2 C3 etc. Time yourself. How long did it take you?

Here are my results.

Alphabet – 3.88 seconds
Numbers – 6.44 seconds
Alternating – 1 minute 10 seconds

If I just did the alphabet and then the numbers one after the other, it would have taken me 10.32 seconds (i.e. 3.88 + 6.44). Alternating between the alphabet and numbers took me an extra 59.68 seconds to achieve the same task. 

The cost of switching attention from task to task causes mental and physical fatigue, reduces your performance and stalls your productivity. Nothing about this is happiness inducing. The biggest task that people switch back and forth from is their phone.

If you are like my patient and you check your phone every 5 minutes, imagine the attention switching cost and the resulting cost to your happiness, wellbeing and productivity. 

Antoine De Saint-Exupery once said,

‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away’.

Sometimes we need to add practices and strategies into our lives. Many times, we actually need to take stuff out. If you frequently ‘snack’ on your screens, removing that alone will instantaneously and dramatically improve your wellbeing and performance. 

If this resonates and you want some help with freeing up time, energy and attention so that you can focus on what matters (e.g. deep work, family, health, personal development), reply to this email with ‘COACH’.  

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Much love to you and of course myself,

Dr G

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