Out of Sight, Out of Reach, Out of Mind
There is a saying that goes, “out of sight, out of mind”. That is the basis for the first productivity tip that I'm sharing on this journal. As you can tell by the title though, I added “Out of Reach” in between. The reason for that is explained towards the end of this post.
My usual routine when I got to work was to take out my phone and place it on my desk, right in front of me, between the keyboard and my monitors. The idea being that I would easily spot any notification and can act on them.
To the old me, this setup was perfectly fine. Years ago, I was so into apps and staying up to date on my notifications, that I didn't mind having a phone right in front of me. This was partly the reason I switched from a Windows Phone to an iPhone; the notifications system on Windows Phones were subpar and it just didn't have any of the cool apps available on iPhones.
Fast forward to today and having a phone right in front of me at work, does not seem like a good idea at all. It makes it look like I was so willing to distract myself back then, that I would position my phone in such a way that I got a front row seat to distractions all day.
So, as I was researching ways to limit my smartphone usage, I ran into the idea of keeping my phone “out of sight” at work. If I don't see it, I will likely forget about it. At least, that was the idea. I can confirm that this strategy does work, to an extent.
Out of Sight
So instead of keeping my phone right in front of me at work, I began to just keep it in my pocket. This helped decrease the temptation of simply grabbing my phone to mindlessly use it; looking for something to entertain me or to pass the time. However, this did not stop me from getting distracted due to the notifications I was getting from my phone. I have vibration set to on, even in silent mode. So even if the phone was in my pocket, I would still get buzzed when I get notifications.
So, the obvious next step was to turn off most of my notifications. Before I could do that though, I had to go through and remove apps that I no longer needed on my phone, like social media and shopping apps. After that has been done, I went through and turned off most of the notifications except for the important ones, like messages coming from real people and banking and weather alerts. This pretty much took away most of the unimportant notifications that I would usually get throughout my day.
So, at this point, I thought I had done everything I could to minimize distractions from my phone. I was no longer getting numerous notifications throughout the day, and the ones that I did get, were those coming from real people, like text messages from family and friends. At this point I thought I could simply leave my phone in my pocket and not get distracted at work. I was wrong.
- First, with minimal notifications coming from my phone and even if my phone was in my pocket, my mind would still occasionally wander off and the temptation to pull out my phone to find something to do was still there. This was especially noticeable when I still had a browser on my phone.
- Second, an interesting thing started happening. With my phone in my pocket, silent with minimal notifications throughout the day, I started getting “phantom vibrations”. I call them “phantom” because whenever I checked my phone for notifications, I didn't see any. Basically, my body has gotten so used to getting buzzed that it starts to feel like my phone was vibrating, when it just wasn't. The problem here is that not only am I getting distracted, it turns out to be a false source of distraction too. I was getting interrupted for nothing. The vibrations were a form of “tactile hallucination”, to borrow words from a Wikipedia entry for Phantom Vibration Syndrome.
Out of Reach
I wasn't sure how to solve these new problems, but I tried stowing my phone in my desk drawer just to see what would happen. The results were pretty amazing! As soon as I placed my phone inside the drawer, I immediately felt less distracted. It's as if my mind switched off a part of it that was tethered to my phone and freed up resources that allowed me to focus more on my work. There were times when I just completely forgot about my phone, only remembering it was not on me when I got up and felt something missing from my left pocket.
It also significantly decreased but didn't completely eliminate the “phantom vibrations” that I was getting. I believe the fact that I don't have the phone on me, means I don't feel it when I move around, which I think helps reduce the sensation of vibrations coming from a phone that is just not there.
Out of Mind
So, you can see from my experience, just having the phone out of sight was not enough to take it off my mind. It had to be out of sight, and out of reach too for me to stop thinking about it.
If you have a problem with trying to stay focused at work and you know your phone is one of the main sources of distraction, I highly suggest keeping it out of sight and out of reach. You can place it in your desk drawer or keep it in your bag. It doesn't matter where you stow it, as long as you don’t have it on your body and you cannot see it, it should be enough to help your mind focus on the task at hand.