Bad news for phone addicts – a new study shows that the device in the palm of your hand is killing your IQ. If you’re ever guilty of watching TV while browsing Facebook and using Google to answer every life question, research suggests it could be making you, ah… Dumb.
A study by the University of Copenhagen has found that digital multitasking – having one eye on the telly and the other on your Instagram feed – is having a serious impact on your brain. Researchers found that using multiple devices releases a hormone that is likened to being high on drugs. That’s not all: Every time you multitask, you’re rewiring your brain. Flicking between gadgets causes information to be stored in another part of the brain, establishing new cognitive habits.
“Our brains could, thanks to our reliance and overuse of technology, be heading for the scrap heap,” one of the researchers told the Daily Mail. And to top it off, scientists at the University of Waterloo believe resorting to Google to answer life’s questions is lowering our IQ. Nice.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Here, we speak to tech queen Megan Iemma of Tech Coach HQ about the four best ways to take control.
- Don’t Google Everything
To Google or not to Google? Megan Iemma says it’s important to develop “digital resilience,” and be discerning about when, and how you use search engines. A recent study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that most humans will opt to exert as little mental effort as possible. This can result in an over-reliance on search engines (we’ve all Googled questions we could solve ourselves).
“I think the bigger issue is critical thinking skills,” says Iemma. She believes that truly productive people know how to use search engines properly and aren’t ‘trigger happy.’ “Go beyond the first page of Google and try a combination of keywords, rather than just typing the question straight in,” she says.
- Have a Zen Inbox
Guilty of checking your emails every 10 minutes, and jumping when you hear the ping of a new message? It’s time for an inbox overhaul. Creating a zen inbox is simple: Write an ‘out of office’ message that lets friends and colleagues know exactly when you will check your inbox. Be specific and set two times – 8am and 2pm are ideal so you have time to action any tasks. Add to the message that any urgent notes can be directed to your mobile or receptionist.
It might seem stressful at first, but changing your email habits will cause you to be more task-focused, rather than reactive as new messages come through. “It’s a more productive way to check and respond to emails,” says Iemma. “Research has shown we are less stressed when we stick to about twice a day rather than constantly checking it.”
- Try the 7til7 Challenge
Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation has launched the 7Til7 Challenge, which asks Australians to ‘disconnect to reconnect.’ Participants are encouraged to take time out from technology between 7am and 7pm, to reflect on our relationship with devices. Sure, that might not be realistic if you hold down a full time job, but start small by switching off social media notifications during the day. You’ll be surprised by the results.
- Use One Screen at a Time
For years we’ve been told how important it is to hone the art of multitasking, but new research suggests that when it comes to devices, screen-on-screen action should be avoided. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that more than 80 per cent of mobile users are guilty of using multiple screens at once.
The answer? When you arrive home, dock your mobile on the charger in a separate room. At work, try to turn off Facebook notifications so you don’t have too many devices vying for your attention. It’s a tough habit to break, but your future self will thank you.
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