Mobile phones make us feel as though we are more productive and can get things done quickly when the evidence shows they reduce our ability to be productive.

Also, recent research from Munich shows that the more you use your mobile phone, the lower your overall well-being. This study just adds to the growing amount of material from university researchers around the world connecting mobile phone usage with mental health issues.

The fact that we can get instant messages in the palm of our hand, any time, any place anywhere, makes us think we are being productive. Instead of having to wait until the next day to deal with a message, for example, we can deal with it straight away. So, we send off a quick response, thinking we’ve achieved something. Except we haven’t.

People who check their email on mobile phones tend to sort through it, answer one or two and then re-open emails on their desktop device later in the day or the next day. We are constantly opening and re-opening emails because we haven’t dealt with them. This is hugely inefficient.

Can you imagine opening and then re-opening letters in the physical mail dozens of times before dealing with them! That’s what we are doing with email.

The Bank of England published a study a year ago showing that the productivity stagnation in the UK economy was directly linked to the usage of mobile phones. It’s a magic trick. The mobile phone is making us think we are being productive because we can do something instantly. But in fact, all we are doing is delaying things, increasing repetitive work and reducing communication efficiency, leading to misunderstandings and misinterpretations which take more time to sort out.

Three steps to better mobile phone use:

  1. Set a schedule for using the phone. Your brain loves routine. Set routines for looking at social media, or for dealing with emails. Stick to those routines, make them a habit.
  2. Make sure you switch off ALL notifications. These interrupt you, waste your time, and annoy you when you realise the alert was for something irrelevant. Alerts on mobile phones are reducing productivity and making you feel less in control, which increases stress.
  3. Switch off your mobile phone two hours before you go to bed, not on silent. And, certainly, don’t take it to the bedroom. Much or our mental health issues and lack of well-being are because we are sleeping with our phones. Mobile phones lead to significant amounts of sleep deprivation.