Phones were invented to enhance communication, but often, they do exactly the opposite.
Many people feel that mobile phone use is excessive and diminishes the quality of a number of social experiences (1). In one anonymous rant, a New York City restaurant manager purportedly compared restaurant service times between 2004, when mobile phones were scarce, to 2014, when mobile phones were prevalent, and claimed that the service times over ten years nearly doubled as a result of customers being distracted by the hordes of texts and calls they received during the meal, not to mention the indulgent photos they took of their food. While such an anonymous posting may or may not be true, we've all seen this - couples or groups of people sitting in a social setting, with most or all of the group glued to their phones. Meaningful interaction with someone becomes difficult when their attention is diverted towards something else.
In fact, just the mere presence of a mobile phone has been shown to inhibit human relationship formation between two people. In a 2013 study, 74 participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups - in the first group, a smartphone was present, placed on top of a nearby desk, whereas in the second group, there was no phone in sight (2). Interestingly, the people who got to know each other in the presence of a smartphone felt less close with their conversation partners and reported a lower quality of relationship compared to those who shared a conversation without a smartphone present. Moreover, these effects were most pronounced when people discussed a personally meaningful topic.
Thus, whether they are in use or not, mobile phones appear to distract people from the experience of the moment.
Priorities Versus Distractions
There is a difference between a priority, which is a thing that is regarded as more important than other things (3), and a distraction, which is a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to other things (4). Despite the distinction, priorities and distractions are related by the fact that in both cases, something important exists that warrants attention - in a state of prioritization, the required attention is given, whereas in a state of distraction, it is deflected towards something of lesser significance.
In the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (5) by Stephen Covey, the concept of a time management matrix is used as a way of prioritizing things so as to increase the efficiency at which things are done, thereby reducing stress and improving the quality of one's life. The time management matrix consists of four quadrants (6) as shown in Figure 1. Take a minute to peruse it.
Figure 1. Time management matrix (5).
It can be seen that the four quadrants in the time management matrix are distinguished by their relative urgency and importance. In essence, quadrants 1 and 2 contain priorities; quadrant 1 contains "important, urgent" things such as medical emergencies, relationship crises, and looming work deadlines whereas quadrant 2 contains "important, not urgent" things such as health, relationship building, and work planning. By way of comparison, quadrants 3 and 4 contain distractions; mobile phone usage falls within these latter two quadrants.
Long story short, while almost everyone pays attention to quadrant 1, the abundance of time spent on the low-impact information in categories 3 and 4 leads to a poverty of attention towards category 2. By spending less time in quadrants 3 and 4 and more time in quadrant 2 - thus reducing the amount of time spent in quadrant 1 as important things are resolved before they become urgent - life can be made better.
Remove The Distractions
There's only so much time in a day, and while many people have category 2 priorities that they would like to attend to, the reality is that they are swamped with urgent category 3 distractions such as texts, phone calls, emails, and meetings. Then, at the end of the day, tiredness sets in, and with tiredness comes a myriad of non-urgent category 4 distractions, the emperor of which may be television. With all of these distractions littering one's day, the time just isn't there for the "important, not urgent" category 2 priorities.
There is a way to resolve this. Rather than just trying to come up with extra time to deal with the category 2 priorities, a better strategy is to first remove the category 3 and 4 distractions, thus freeing up vast amounts of time which can then be used for things that matter. Removing distractions can involve any number of scenarios - putting the phone away at times to limit your availability, and diverting non-critical issues to email; adopting a rule of only checking email once or, at most, twice a day; avoiding meetings that lack clear objectives, agendas, or end times; and, as my mother used to say, turning off the television and going outside.
Perhaps Bruce Lee summed it up best:
"It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials."
So, how much of your day is spent in categories 3 and 4?
References (1) http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-28272380. (2) http://spr.sagepub.com/content/30/3/237.full. (3) https://www.google.co.th/?gws_rd=cr,ssl&ei=LWFAVYrCEdaQuATQtoDwDQ#q=define+priority. (4) https://www.google.co.th/?gws_rd=cr,ssl&ei=amFAVZD8Ns29uATlyIFg#q=define+distraction. (5) Covey S. 1989. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Free Press. (6) http://examinedexistence.com/three-popular-ways-to-prioritize-a-hectic-schedule/.