The iPhone has been with us now for 10 years. Mobile devices are the stuff of Boomer science fiction. Smartphones have transformed how we interact with each other and have become our interface with, and window to the world. The Millennial generation came into its own with the adoption of the Smartphone and their children will not know a time without this level of connectivity. It feels like the future has arrived in the palm of our hands. However, it is up to us to use these tools consciously to advance our chosen goals and values.
It is important to know that our phones can trigger addictive behaviors by creating reactions in the pleasure centers of the brain. Harvard, Psychology Today and others have published studies that provide both insights and caution. Interactions with our devices can cause dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine makes us feel good – like the pleasure received when spending special time with a loved one, finishing a good workout or a having a great meal. Recent research also shows that receiving a text message, sharing a social networking post or liking something on-line can also cause this pleasurable response. In fact, marketing experts recommend making branded social media posts personal and timely to cause this effect. It’s time we all became vigilant and aware about how technology not only supports and enhances the life and career that we want, but how it might be diminishing it as well.
Certain tasks associated with the self-reinforcing Smartphone response/reward system, can make you feel you are accomplishing something, and even make you feel good, while actually taking time and focus away from goals that will serve you. Over-attention to email and text messaging is an example of activity that can give the illusion of productivity, but can actually reduce it. While answering email within 24 hours is a best practice, and reserving a dedicated block of time to do so can improve your efficiency, compulsive attention to it can have the opposite effect.
We all have the ability to consciously shift focus and behavior from automatic response to action that supports what you want to create. Try using technology to support a personal dashboard. Create over-arching goals and milestones that support these big picture choices. Make your milestones SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Use apps, calendars, lists and/or reminders to direct attention to what you want to achieve. Experiment with which tools work best for you. Gauge your progress on a regular basis. Review what you have accomplished. Accomplishing your dashboard goals can cause a positive neurological response just as the less productive triggers do. However this reward system can now be aligned with your chosen goals and objectives.
Watch for the Smartphone trap of replacing screen viewing with in-person conversation. Have you observed people before a meeting, sitting quietly with their eyes on their screens? Is this your reaction as well? Use times like these to invest in relationships. Seemingly everyday conversations about family, personal concerns, hopes and values build relationships that help you do your job better and improve satisfaction. These sorts of interactions build trust over time, and trust is a foundation of effective communication, especially when a difficult conversation is required. Communication requires a rhythm and regularity. Leaders create synergy with regular communication, and employees keep it going. So this year, be sure to focus on your actions and how they contribute to your total well-being. It could make a huge difference in your life.