Smartphones: Do They Help or Hurt Productivity?

Close up of businessman writing text message on his phoneAfter nearly 10 years of smartphone sales, how are people using them? Some statistics indicate smartphones might be used more as high-tech toys than anything else. A 2013 study conducted by Business Insider found people spend 39 percent of their time on smartphones playing games, 24 percent of their time on social media and less than 20 percent of their time on tasks related to productivity, including utility functions such as email or business chats.

Does this mean that the public is spending more time playing Angry Birds and less time being productive? Yes and no. A Wall Street Journal article hints studies may not be asking the right questions. For example, are there ways in which people use these smartphones to be more productive in less time, leaving more time for other things, such as leisure?

Getting More Done in Less Time

One example of smartphones’ effects on productivity can be seen in the airline industry, according to Wall Street Journal. One of the jobs of a commercial airline pilot is to calculate the best place to fuel an aircraft, based on price. Just 5 years ago, this was a manual process. Now, a smartphone app gives the pilot information on the best fuel prices in a few seconds.

Taxi services are also using smartphones to connect people with cars, resulting in passengers getting to their destinations sooner and taxi drivers making more money. The smartphone may help people be more productive in less time.

Increased Productivity Where It Counts

A 2013 Harris Interactive survey on smartphone use found the average person saves 88 minutes of time each day by using smartphone apps, according to NDTV Gadgets. Ninety-seven percent of the 2,120 adults polled said they use at least one app on their smartphones. The most-used apps were email, text and social networking.

These 88 minutes per day come to 22 days each year — that’s a lot of extra Angry Birds time. If this is true, then why don’t you feel like you have a lot more free time?

Fighting the Distraction

The device that gives you the extra time is also adept at taking it away. You thought you were looking for cell phones only at T-mobile or AT&T, but you were also looking for a way to be easily distracted.

It’s always with you. A world of information is in your pocket, whenever you want it. Instead of waiting until you’re home to look up the lead actors in “Red Dawn” on your desktop computer, you can pull up your IMDB app and get the answer.

You have access to email and texts all of the time; you may be responding to messages at all hours of the day, too. Your job has access to you 24/7 now if they have your phone number and email. If you’re not careful, you can find a reason to have your smartphone out all the time to do something on it.

Smartphone technology has grown faster than people’s ability to control it. Learning to balance productivity and leisure on these devices is the best way to get time back. This shouldn’t be surprising, since you can bet a lot of hours were wasted playing Pong on the first computers 40 years ago. Be thankful you have Angry Birds.

Do you think your smartphone makes you more or less productive? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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