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Dumb down your smart phone

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May 17, 2012

Why would you do such a thing? Modern man has achieved much in recent history. One of man’s major achievements as of late, for lack of better terms, is creating the cure for boredom. That’s right – boredom.

Thanks to our smart phones (along with tablets, other handhelds, etc.) the modern man no longer has to fret about nothing to do. There is always an app close by, another email to read, bill to pay, Angry Bird to save, and the list goes on and on with what’s at our  fingertips. While there is much to be thankful for about the ‘productivity’ in our hands, there is also something to worry about – the demise of boredom.

Boredom, as I see it, is free space to think, wonder, and roam the world between your ears. I do not define boredom as having nothing to do, but rather having everything to do. I believe the individual needs this time for overall health, sanity, and clarity. Humans have always had a component of boredom in their lives, but only recently have we had an option to opt out of being bored. I would argue that our minds are not able to handle the current degree of stimulation that we face day-in and day-out, thus depleting our overall ability to be creative, strategic, thoughtful, engaged and so on. If our brains were likened to a city’s infrastructure, I’d say there is too much traffic –smog, wrecks, and the general annoyance that comes from traffic is pervasive in our brains.

So getting back to the title of the post, dumbing down our smart phones (I could say “smart devices” but it doesn’t have the same punch) is our ability to know when to say “when” and limit our ability to rid our lives of boredom. We need to recognize boredom as a central tenet that allows other mental ascents to bloom.

How do you do this?

This, of course, depends on your personality, so below is what I have found suits me best. My guess is you won’t like it. Neither did I…at first.

Limit yourself to 2 pages/screens of applications
You and I both know that you pretty much use the same apps over and over. Some of these get you out of a jam and some of the others you have on there just because they came on the phone or for novelty’s sake. Get rid of the apps you don’t use or that are simply a novelty.

Turn off YouTube
Yes, I said it. It’s like having America’s Funniest Home Videos in your pocket – and while this may make you laugh, it doesn’t make you a better human being and/or more productive. For some reason I always find myself watching soccer highlights – not ones from last night, but amazing plays. I don’t play soccer, I don’t care about soccer, and if you have seen me try to play, it’s a joke. Simply put: it’s a waste of time.

Games, really? Grow up!
Games are the ultimate enemy of boredom. It’s all novelty…if you argue with me on this, it’s going to be laughable logically, so just save your breath. There is no point besides ‘vegging’ and escapism. Angry birds, Words With Friends, Flick Home Run, all of them are dulling you as an individual.

News no more (on your phone/device, that is)
When was the last time you read the news? Did you go about your day any differently because of what you read? The information is largely un-actionable; thus, to keep checking the news on your phone/device is meaningless to your day’s productivity. Yes ‘news’ has an aspect of value, but I am sure you will be fine without it on your phone.

Last but not least…shut down your BROWSER!
Gasp. Breath. Breath.
You mean to tell me after you sit on your computer for roughly eight-plus hours a day you ‘need’ a browser on your device? If you live in B.R.I.C. (Brazil, Russia, India, China) this does not apply to you. However, in the states, aren’t you tired of being on the web? I know it can seem that being at your 5-year-old kid’s soccer game or stuck at your spouse’s third cousin’s house for a once-a-decade dinner is not as fun as checking your neighbor’s Facebook page from your phone, but take a break. Chill.

So how do I dumb down my Smart Phone? Use restrictions.
Have a friend/spouse/coworker lock the parts of your phone that you deem a waste of your time. This just makes sense due to the “present bias” we have towards immediate pleasure, which, in this case, means curing our boredom. Have them use a code (that they won’t forget) to unlock the phone when you need to run updates, download a new business app, etc. Immediately have them lock it back and thank them for doing so.

Roy Keely is the VP of market strategy at Xcentric, which specializes in cloud com­puting and IT consulting for CPA firms.  He offers a broad range of experience in marketing, sales and consulting and is passionate about technology, productivity and market strategy. He can be reached at info@xcentric.com or 678.297.0066 x 525.

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