Need to focus? Put some space between you and your smartphone.
There’s no disputing how useful smartphones are. From driving directions and help finding the best restaurants to easily accessible cameras and other handy apps, they’re a portal to connection and convenience. But (you knew there was a but coming, didn’t you?) these beloved devices may cause a bona fide brain drain in their users. Having your smartphone nearby significantly lowers your cognitive capacity — a.k.a., how well your brain holds and processes information — according to new research. And believe it or not, this holds true even if your phone is off! In the study, participants took a series of tests that required full concentration. Before doing so, they were instructed to put their phone in another room, on the desk facedown, or in their pocket or purse. Those who put their phones in another room did significantly better on the test than those whose phones were closer. The researchers hypothesize that when your phone is nearby, your brain is actively working on not picking it up even if you’re not aware of it. In other words, the mere presence of a smartphone in close proximity is distracting. What to do? Flip phones have a retro cachet these days, but if you’re not feeling quite that old-school, get smarter about your smartphone. If your phone is like a fifth appendage, put it in its place more often — ideally, in another room. I am as guilty as the next person, but I am trying to cut the cord (so to speak!) by using a desktop computer for emails and online research, a landline for calls, and a good old-fashioned watch or clock for telling time. Banish your phone from both the dinner table and — yes! yes! yes! — your bedroom. (Easier said than done, I know, but give it a try!)