By Roy Keely
Why would you do such a thing? Man has achieved much in recent history. One of late, for the lack of a better term, is creating the cure for boredom. That's right – boredom.
Thanks to our smartphones (along with tablets, other handhelds, etc.) we no longer have to fret about having nothing to do. There's always an app close by, another e-mail to read, a bill to pay, an Angry Bird to save, and the list goes on and on with what's available at our fingertips. While having such "productivity" tools in our hands is something to be thankful for, they also give us 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 don't define boredom as having nothing to do, but rather having everything to do. I believe we need this time for our 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'd argue that our minds aren't able to handle the current degree of stimulation that we face day in and day out, which depletes 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's too much traffic ‒ smog, auto accidents, and the general annoyance that comes from traffic ‒ that's pervasive in our brains.
So getting back to the title of this post, dumbing down our smartphones (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 that boredom, as a central tenet, allows other mental ascents to bloom.
What are some ways you can do this?
This, of course, depends on your personality, but I've found the following ideas suit me best. My guess is you won't like them. Neither did I . . . at first.
Limit yourself to two 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 are 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 novelties.
Turn off YouTube. Yes, I said it. It's like having America's Funniest Home Videos in your pocket. And while YouTube videos may make you laugh, they don't make you a better person and/or more productive. For some reason, I always find myself watching soccer highlights - not ones from the previous night, but amazing plays. I don't play soccer, I don't care about soccer, and if you were to see 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's no point to playing games besides "vegging" and escaping. Angry Birds, Words with Friends, Flick Home Run ‒ all of them can make us dull as individuals.
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 unactionable; 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'm sure you'll be fine without it on your phone.
Last but not least . . . shut down your BROWSER! Gasp. Breath. Breath. Do you mean to tell me that after you sit at your computer for eight or more hours a day you "need"' a browser on your device? If you live in Brazil, Russia, India, or China, this doesn't 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 five-year-old child'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 can you dumb down your Smartphone? I 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 toward 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 after, have them lock it again and thank them for doing so.
About the author:
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. Roy is a native Texan and graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 297-0066 ext 525.