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     By Scott Lutostanski

This question seems like a fairly easy one to answer. How does having a cell phone impact our productivity? Cell phones help us multitask, respond immediately, and manage our day, but they can also severely ruin our ability to get work done.

The New York Times recently ran an article about how our cell phones can get in the way of our ability to stay on task and avoid distractions. In many ways, our cell phones can function as quicksand. A notification, a text, or an email can quickly turn into 10 minutes. Social media is the ultimate bottomless pit that can suck away our time during the day.

A prominent TV writer once said in an interview that he has to put his phone away and disconnect his wifi when he is writing episodes. His explanation was that whenever he hits a difficult or challenging moment, he uses his phone as an escape instead of thinking harder and pushing through the challenge. This is a simple way to look at it.

Whether it’s a distraction, a coping mechanism, or just a conditioned response to pick it up and start using it, here are some ways to work around our phones so we can be more productive.

Put It Away – This is fairly straightforward and the best solution. Leave your phone in a different room. That’s the most simple answer, but it’s surprisingly difficult to do. If you’re unable to do this, put it in a drawer. If possible, lock the drawer. Make it difficult to see, hear, or use. By putting our phones away, we are much better at focusing and getting through our work.

Use Locking Apps – Can’t manage to leave your phone somewhere else? There are apps out there that will “lock” your phone. Forest is a very popular one. It lets you set a timer that forces your phone to stay in the app. It tracks your progress. If you start using your phone, it will remind you, within seconds, to get back in the app. This is a good reminder to fight our impulses to use our phone or immediately look at a notification.

Track Your Time – Feel like you’re not being productive because of your phone? iPhones will now track the amount of time you’re spending on your phone and give you reports. If you don’t have an iPhone, Moment is a fantastic app that can serve this function. It will even let you create a group with your family and see everyone’s time usage. If you want to limit time on your phone, set goals and track time spent on a weekly or daily basis.

Our phones can ruin a lot of our plans for productivity. By pushing them to the side and finding the will to avoid them, we can get more work done and become better students.