Is It Time to Turn Off Your Phone?

Your handheld traveling companion that seems so helpful might at times be sabotaging your effectiveness. Here are the watch-outs and solutions.

A smartphone can be a business traveler’s best friend, keeping you in touch with your work (and personal) contacts almost anywhere you go. But new studies suggest that constant connection to the small screen could bring you and your brainpower down. Here’s what the research says—and how to avoid the problems.

Mental fatigue and disengagement: A study from Michigan State University found that using a smartphone for as little as 20 minutes after 9 p.m. can result in noticeable increases in mental fatigue and disengagement the next day—pretty much the opposite of what you want for any kind of travel.

Solution: The researchers link the problem, at least in part, to interruptions of sleep. Make sure to set a phone “curfew” and switch on the “do not disturb” function about an hour before bedtime.

Higher stress: A Washington and Lee University study found that the more texts you send and receive in a day, the more stressed you may get (and, again, the worse you may sleep).

Solution: Researchers link the problem to self-made pressure to keep the clever messages going. What to do? Again, set boundaries—in this case, a cutoff to sending texts (say, two hours before bed)—to give yourself time to unwind.

Anxiety and less life satisfaction: A study in Computers and Human Behavior found that high-frequency cell-phone users have higher anxiety levels and report lower satisfaction with life than less plugged-in peers.

Solution: Focus on real-life connections—and not on being up-to-date on others’ virtual calendars. Experts say that staying present in your own life can help build more satisfaction. When you have free time during travel, use it to explore your surroundings, not surf social media.

 

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From the publishers of Men’s Health and Women’s Health.