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063 How to improve productivity and limit phone use

How to limit phone use and be more productive

Hello, welcome back to the art of business English here we have a little bit of a live session today in the school here in Barcelona. Now this week, as I mentioned in last week’s podcast episode, I’m gonna be focusing this episode on a bit of productivity at the moment I’m taking course on productivity by a very interesting entrepreneur who has a great company. His name is Shane Melaugh, he is the CEO of Thrive themes, which is a fantastic product, which I personally use for all my websites and his course is called focus and action, which I took and I have been taking since the start of the year and there are a couple things which he’s enlightened me to, which I have found quite interesting. I really want to share it with you guys my audience because I think it’s something that you should be aware of and I think it’s something we can all benefit from. 

So, basically today talk about is some of the things that are actually occupying our time, which we don’t really realise okay and this I feel is really impacting negatively on our productivity and our ability to work well and really to be present with our family, which is quite sad and something really I’m starting to feel more passionate about and I have started to share this with some of my younger students who are at University and some of some of my younger students. And they spending a lot of time or a lot of their time wasting it on in particular social media such as Instagram so what I want to do today is to show you if you’ve got an iPhone and show you how you can monitor your behaviour and the use of your device which is I am sure you will noticed that it is impacting negatively. So what you are looking at today is our how we can check out screen time, which is the use of much time you spend looking at your screen, some of the negative things that studies have found which can basically impact on our productivity and maybe some of the ways which we can be better and more productive and avoid interruptions.

What is screen time? 

Okay, so let’s start by looking at this famous and newly implemented screen time. Okay, so basically if you look at your phone what you find is that under the settings and OK you go to settings and you look just under the notifications. There is a section called screen time OK and from here you if you haven’t already activated it, you need to activate it okay and what it does is, it shows you how much time you spend with your screen on okay and unlocked, and that’s in a 24 hour period and what applications you’re using most so once you have activated screen time. And you get a summary, but then you can actually select the device that you want, and it’s divided into two sections today or the last seven days and then there are categories which are basically productivity, reading and reference, entertainment and social media and things like that. For example, today I’ve used my phone for 24 minutes, and of this I’ve spent nine minutes of those on productivity, six minutes on reading and three minutes on entertainment and it actually shows you the most used apps in order. 

Okay, you can also flip over to the last seven days, now on my phone I’ve used my phone for one hour and 51 minutes on average in the past seven days, which is pretty good and that’s per day and what you’ll notice as well is that the top most used app on my phone is Google maps. So, in fact, we can see that most or a lot of the time I’ve used my phone two and a half hour oh two hours sorry, on Google maps, so that was obviously when I was driving and I needed to go some places and I had maps open, so that’s not really wasting time, I am actually using it for a productive purpose. Now the next app is WhatsApp. Okay, obviously I’m sure most of you are going to be having WhatsApp quite high up the list and you’ll notice that a lot of my apps are… you know, chrome, BBC News, email and then down is YouTube and so you do get an idea of how many hours you have spent on these apps over the last seven days. 

I would say the maximum time you could use your phone in a day, I would say 10 hours maybe.


Okay, so when we say the last seven days we’re talking about the whole 24 period of the day, so you need to keep that in mind when you start to analyse the statistics you’re going to see that you need to sleep for eight hours a day, so you don’t have your phone if you’re sleeping and there is no screen time on. So then the hours that you are using your phone are probably going to be limited to a maximum of about, I mean the possible time that you could use your phone, I would say the maximum time you could use your phone in a day, I would say 10 hours maybe. I mean you have to sleep you have to drive you have to work. You can’t just be using the phone all the time. But what you are going to see is that and in particular with some of my students, the times that they are spending on their phones a day are quiet astronomical. 

The next section you’ll see is pickups and on average I picked up my phone 50 times per day and then you can see first used app after pickup and for me it’s been WhatsApp. Okay, and then the phone in settings on Skype and the last section is notification so you can see how many notifications you get in a week and then they get more or less how many notifications per day and which apps are giving the most notifications and how many times you receive those notifications. 

So if we consider 7 and a half hours to 8 hours a day, a full working day, on average, some of my students are spending a whole day staring at their phone


So that is basically the app and now we can start analysing the data. Okay, so what has been scary for me is that I’ve seen some of my students and colleagues, and they’ve been using their phone on average, on average, okay? So some days less and some days more and the good students about 3 1/2 hours a day on average and the bad students, some of them up to 7 1/2 hours a day of screen time. So if we consider 7 and a half hours to 8 hours a day, a full working day on average, some of my students are spending a whole day staring at their phone, then the next thing that’s quite shocking is if you look at the apps. A lot of them are spending and a day, two hours a day on just looking at Instagram, and when you look at that over a week and I think the worst student had spent 14 hours in a week looking at Instagram and suddenly you think to yourself wow I mean in a seven-day period you’ve spent a whole day a whole day of you being awake staring at Instagram and looking Instagram. 

So really this person has only worked or been productive six days out of seven, because they spent a whole day staring at Instagram


So then you start to realise, that must be having a massive negative impact on my productivity. I mean,  imagine if you spent a whole day. So really this person has only worked or been productive six days out of seven, because they spent a whole day staring at Instagram and then when they realise that they suddenly think to themselves wow! This could be a problem. But because you don’t look at Instagram for 14 hours straight, you don’t realise how much time you’re wasting on the app, okay? So what is the other implication? Well because you are picking up your phone all the time, I mean some of them, some of my students had on average, in a week, I think it was 700 pickups or something like that. So once we started to think about how many hours they can actually be awake to pickup the phone. We removed all the sleeping hours and hours of travel hours at their work or in class or whatever. Like literally, we did the maths, average maths and some of them are picking up their phones on average every eight minutes so the averages were between about eight and 12 minutes. 

Some of them are picking up their phones on average every eight minutes so the averages were between about eight and 12 minutes.


So suddenly you are realising that people are breaking up their train of thought, they’re destroying their ability to concentrate because they constantly without realising it picking up their phone and this is what is making us as humans struggle with productivity and having the sensation of I am always busy, I’m terribly busy, I am so busy because what’s actually happening is the device in our hands has been engineered specifically to capture and retain our attention. Why? Well it is quite logical isn’t it, if Facebook, Instagram, Google, the big boys they generate revenue from you clicking on ads they serve up in the feeds, so the more time you spend looking at a screen, the more probably they have to sell advertising space, so they want you there. I mean, in the past you could watch television. Back in the old days when we used to watch television and not Netflix. Oh and that’s another thing, Netflix is just as bad. Many of my students spend two hours a day watching Netflix. So suddenly what you’re seeing is a transformation or transition from traditional media like television OK? I mean, many of my students don’t watch television any more they’re watching Netflix. So, the television advertising space suddenly becomes irrelevant. So, where are advertisers now moving to, social media and online platforms because that’s where people are spending the most time. Another thing is, If you’re spending a lot of time Instagram, It can have a negative effect on the way you perceive yourself. So not only are you becoming less productive. But suddenly you are spending time looking at other people and thinking about how they are and how they look and maybe you’re not valuing who you are as a person because you’re comparing yourself constantly to other people. So, there are studies that show that Instagram is having a negative effect on the perception of how teenagers perceive themselves. Okay, especially teenage girls, so it’s quite… and it’s something that is not well understood or well-controlled. 

Instagram is having a negative effect on the perception of how teenagers perceive themselves

And another issue is that parents are unaware of how much time the younger generation is spending on their phones and parents are in fact just as addicted, but in different ways. Maybe they use different apps, but they’re still addicted to Candy Crush, maybe not Instagram, but Facebook. Okay? And maybe people are also reading things that they think are productive or helping them, but actually they’re not. I mean, maybe you just spend hours reading the news, but how many articles do you actually remember is that really benefiting you is it improving your productivity? So, parents are singing this song of, “oh my god, I'm so busy, oh my god I’m so busy and what is actually happening is that they're in the same loop or in the same trap as their kids and you'll also notice that this is also means people are not present in their lives because they're too busy being attached to their devices and you know you can see it. For example, people think that we can multitask and in fact we can't multitask. We have to stop and start task and this, as I mentioned previously, this constant picking up of your phone is breaking up your ability to concentrate and be productive, but it's also not allowing you to be present with those around you. For example, if you want someone to say yes to something, If someone’s like reading something on their phone, and you say “um can I do this?” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean they're not actually listening to you they’re immersed in what they're doing because it is very difficult for people to do two things at the same time productively you can’t really do it. What you need to do is actually stop focusing on one thing and then move your attention to the other thing, so this constant flip, flip, flip, flip between your phone and that the task at hand is having a detrimental effect on people's productivity.


This constant flip, flip, flip, flip between your phone and that the task at hand is having a detrimental effect on people's productivity


That is what I would like people to become aware of today, its quite interesting once you start to discuss it with your friends and get them to show how much time they spend on their phones and I think the that the solution to this are quite simple. you need to turn off all of your notifications. Basically, I have eliminated all my notifications, except for the most most important ones I’ve even limited my email notifications because I only check my email now twice a day because it's very annoying and is stopping me from really getting in and focusing on what I'm supposed to be doing. If there are constantly popping up emails. And what you will actually notice is that when you make this transition, you don't miss email. It's not the end of the world if you don't reply instantly to people’s emails.


And another thing is to avoid WhatsApp, I mean, Whatsapp at work, I mean how many whatsapp groups are you in? How many Whatsapp groups have you got? If you have a smartwatch. I mean, I have a smartwatch, I use it for sport, but it's… my phone is permanently on no molestar or the no notification setting, you see that there is little little moon because if I don't have the notifications turned off or silenced my wrist is constantly vibrating. I find extremely frustrating. So basically turning off as many notifications as you can is a great start and then really avoiding having your phone around you or with you when you're trying to do blocks of work.


I'm not saying to people that they should stop using Instagram or social media because you maybe like to follow different people. The different trends, you like design, fashion or photography. That’s fantastic, but what we need to avoid is this constant jump, jumps switching between and switching between tasks, so when you wanna do some serious work, you need to lock yourself into a space that is conducive to work.


You need to manage that space, remove all of the notifications, remove all the distractions and really get on and work and then if you are spending in upwards of six or seven hours a week on a certain application, then maybe you should think about that and really ask yourself the question, what value is really offering me because if I read a book about something. Maybe I would be equally entertained, and I learned something and it would benefit me a lot more.


Okay, so that's my that's my rant for this week's episode. I found it very interesting, some of the things being listed on this course which I have taken and I think a lot of people could benefit from putting their phone away or putting the phone down. Turning off notifications and spending more time in the present with the people around them and there are some interesting studies that show that even having your phone off, but on the table, it puts a barrier between you and the people you're speaking to, it instantly puts people's attention on, on the phone so you know, just remember this, your phone, and the apps in it have been specifically engineered to grab your attention.


There are a lot of very smart people who are hacking our minds


People want you using their apps, people, the phone companies want you using their devices so, they, there are a lot, a lot of very smart people who are hacking our minds okay, their hackers for a reason. Okay, they understand what they can do to try and circumvent and get into our minds and get our attention focused on them. So just be aware of that, okay?


I liken it to smoking, I mean, 50 years ago, half of the population smoked and people thought it was normal and okay to smoke. Now, obviously we know that smoking is terribly addictive and bad for your health and I think that it’s possible, that in the future we may see some transformations or transitions in people's understanding and behaviour towards mobile phone use.


You know, it is a useful tool in many ways, but there are many, many, many other uses which are unproductive are not good for your self-belief or the way you see yourself and their a complete, you know waste of your time, you could be doing much more productive things with your life and benefiting from many other things like spending time with your family, being outside getting into nature and enjoying your life.


Okay people well that's my little rant for today and I’d really like to get your comments about that. I'd love to get some feedback. If you have any questions about how you can become a bit more productive and some of the ways that you can help clear up your workspace, so it's a more distraction free environment, then let me know. I’ve got a few ideas I can share with you and I would be more than happy to share those with you and if you are interested in Shane's course then I’ll put a link to it in the show notes, it’s a good course and I’ve found it very interesting and quite helpful and a good way to start my year off with a productivity mindset. So that’s it for me now guys, make sure you have a great week and I look forward to hearing from you and hope this episode has been insightful and thought-provoking, so take care and bye for now.


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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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