Is your smartphone killing your creativity?

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When was the last time you were bored? Like, really bored. Not the boredom of a pointless office-based task that would crush the soul of an AI bot. But the liberating boredom of time spent thinking about nothing in particular and letting your mind wander free.

In today’s ‘always on’ culture, boredom is a sin. Being bored means failing to make the most of every second. Being less than your most productive self.

Luckily for us, our smartphones flat out refuse to let us have a moment to ourselves. Craving our attention with notification, after notification, after notification. No longer is waiting in a queue just waiting in a queue. No longer is lying in bed on a Saturday just lying in bed on a Saturday. Every moment of ‘downtime’ is filled with the latest game, social media platform or news website.

But what if being ‘off’ occasionally is the secret to our creativity? Research is increasingly showing this to be the case. In the rare moments when we think we’re doing nothing, our brains are actually hard at work solving problems and coming up with ideas.

(This explains why a post-lunch creative session, after a morning of responding to emails, checking social media and catching up on the day’s news, is such a struggle.)

For most of us, getting rid of our smartphones or even turning them off (yes, they have an off button - who knew?) isn’t realistic. They are now firmly embedded in our work and lives. But we can take back control and free up a little more space in our day. To just. do. nothing.

5 creative tips for taking control of your smartphone

  1. Out of sight, out of mind. Just for 15 minutes, put your phone in a drawer or your bag. The mere sight of your device can subconsciously distract you and derail your bored brain.

  2. Turn off non-essential notifications. When you install an app it’s set to interrupt you 500 times a day by default. Take a minute to change the settings and shut the damn thing up.

  3. Get anti-social. Bit drastic this one, but removing social media apps from your phone is a sure way to stop them sucking up your time. The browser versions are painful to use. And therefore much less addictive.

  4. Before you do it, think about it. Reaching for your phone for the fiftieth time today? Before you grab your device, think about why you’re doing it. If the answer is ‘To call my husband and tell him I won’t be able to pick up the kids tonight.’ fine. If it’s ‘I have no idea but I NEED my phone.’ maybe walk away.

  5. Read Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi. It’ll change the way you look at your phone and have your creative juices flowing freely in no time.

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