Unfocused Mind and Practical Ways to Combat It

On a catch-up session with my good friend, Sandro Rayhansyah last week, we touched upon the topic of the unfocused mind. Here, we are not talking about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is another problem altogether. We talked about how adults and youngsters now often finds it hard to focus on something for an extended period of time due to technology.

When you’re driving, do you sometimes take a quick glance on your phone for notifications and messages?

When you had a 2 hours meeting, do you often see someone checking their phone, or glancing towards their phone that they put on the table?

When you had coffee with your friend, do you often get interrupted by your friend checking his/her phone every time it vibrates?

When you’re having a romantic dinner with your significant other, do you find yourself wanting to check your phone every few minutes?

The advance of technology and the ease for us to access the world through a small device makes it easy for us to get detached on what’s happening in front of us, on what’s going on around us. In the past, people used books and magazines to do this, but it’s highly unlikely that even then, someone will whip out a book during a meeting and just started reading it, is it?

There is a number of reason why this happens, for example, according to scientists from Baylor University, Texas, said that people who relentlessly check their phone may be trying to improve how they feel. According to Prof. Larry Rosen from California State University, 3 potential triggers that makes this happen is addiction, obsession, and shield (from social interaction).

This is impacting our happiness and relationship in our personal life, and in our work life. When people are already using their time to meet us, to be there with us, it is our responsibility to make it worthwhile for all parties involved. According to a research by Kent University in Ohio, there’s a link between greater stress and constant phone use.

‘The social network sometimes just makes me feel a little bit tied to my phone.’
‘It makes me feel like I have another obligation in my life.’

Researcher Andrew Lepp added: ‘There is no me time or solitude left in some of these students’ lives and I think mental health requires a bit of personal alone time to reflect, look inward, process life’s events, and just recover from daily stressors.’

Some of the practical ways that we can do to combat this:

1. Phones in the middle of the table rule

During meals, my previous manager demanded that we stack our phones in the middle of the table during the meal, and the only reason we can pick it up if there’s multiple calls and it’s from the customer’s CIO. If we check our phone for whatever reason, then the first to check needs to pay the bill. The first thing that happens is it started a discussion on the huge stack of phone that we have (~14 phones for 10 people), and the variety of models. Then people started finding topics to bring to the table, and making it a lively discussion.

2. Turning off notifications

This is what Sandro did, he checks his chats and everything occassionally, when he finds the time for it. Instead of letting the notifications bother him all the time, he controls when he use his time for his phone. Most likely, if it actually is really urgent, people will call you. It’s unlikely that there’s going to be an emergency call through your WhatsApp phone call or your LINE message. You can even do this for after

3. Have a digital detox day

This is what I did starting December, occassionally, I have days where I turn off my phone to enjoy the time with my friends and family. I realized that by doing this occassionally, it helps to keep the urge to constantly check my phone under control, and it helps me realize the actual urgency of things.

4. Have a phone free moments and commit to it

Establish agreements with people that you meet often on when none of you should check your phones. For example, commit with your family that no one may check their phone during family meal.

5. Do not disturb mode

For iphone and android users, you can use the do not disturb mode to turn off all notifications when the phone is locked, and you can automate it everyday. For example, everyday from 7 PM to 6 AM, the phone is in do not disturb mode so you won’t get your family time intruded by your phone.
Here’s the how-to for iPhone and Android

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