Why your phone may sabotage your Leaving Cert

Our team is only a few years older than Leaving Cert students on average. We are just as attached to our phones as you are. This post in on how your phone can seriously sabotage your Leaving Cert - or anything productive you are trying to do in your life. 

There is something life-affirming about receiving a message from a friend while you are in the throes of a tedious chapter. It is handy to look up something quickly on our phone too. It’s also great to know the time. Heck it, you'll do way better if you follow us on Twitter, IG and SC... While we all know how incredibly useful phones are… Phones are also the biggest saboteur of flow and motivation. You need to be in control, not your phone.

leaving cert study tips from top students

To this day, I get more done without the phone. It takes willpower at times, but it pays off. I get away with batching phone-related activities: respond to all messages twice a day or so. I have not run into trouble with any close friends or family over delaying a response to a text by 30 minutes. Generally, if it is urgent or important, people choose to call anyway. When you work, you work; when you relax, you relax. Go for a study sprint for 20-40 minutes and then attend to your phone guilt-free. More is achieved, when you are present and focusing on what you are doing, be it chatting to a friend or doing papers. 

Attention is a very valuable commodity in an environment where information is flying at you from all angles. There are so many things competing for your working memory. Imagine your doctor spent some time looking at their phone during your visit. How would you feel? Perhaps, they answered an urgent call or had to look up a phone number for a referral. However, their attention just wouldn’t be with you for that length of time and you might feel disengaged from the doctor. Would he/she be just as engaged in the conversation with you once they look up from their phone? It takes time to refocus. The requirement for attention is non-negotiable, when trying to learn

Sometimes, things just don’t get finished after a preventable interruption. Interruptions are a killer. A study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard reported that the IQ scores of knowledge workers distracted this way fell by an average of 10 points. A study by Microsoft researchers found that once work had been interrupted by an e-mail notification, people took, on average, 24 minutes to return to the suspended task

It is even worse, when you are suffering from textpectation…Why did they not reply to my message? Instead of thinking of moving on, you go through a series of semiconscious calculations based on past experience: How long does this person usually take to get back? Should I text them again? Maybe it is better to ring?… Distraction is much more costly that it might initially seem.

If you feel the need to look something up as you study, it may be tempting to use your phone. I suggest you write a buzzword that will spark the relevant thoughts and look up everything you need in one go at the end. There are exceptions, e.g. if it is essential to look it up before it is possible to move on. 

smartphone use leaving cert students
Credit: Jasu Hu, The Atlantic
A recent article in The Atlantic put forward an argument that smartphones are responsible for a mental health decline in among post-millennials or iGen (people born after 1995 and before 2012). Teens these days are safer in virtually every way - except their mental health seems to be worse. The author, a professor of psychology, suggests that limiting screen time may be the simple solution.

Be careful online:

- Fifty-seven percent more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. In just the four years from 2012 to 2015, 22 percent more teens failed to get seven hours of sleep. The increase is suspiciously timed, starting around when most teens got a smartphone. Sleep deprivation is linked to myriad issues, including compromised thinking and reasoning, susceptibility to illness, weight gain... It also affects mood: People who don’t sleep enough are prone to depression and anxiety. Even Steve Jobs limited his kids’ use of the devices he brought into the world.

- Boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls’ increased by 50 percent—more than twice as much. Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.

- A recently leaked Facebook document indicated that the company had been touting to advertisers its ability to determine teens’ emotional state based on their on-site behaviour, and even to pinpoint “moments when young people need a confidence boost.” Facebook acknowledged that the document was real, but denied that it offers “tools to target people based on their emotional state.” (Source)

Here is more data below. The lag between iPhone release and onset of problems can be explained by the time it took for it to become widespread and affordable. This isn't hard science showing causation by any manner or means, but it seems there is something to it:

Leaving Cert students use of smartphones may damage mental health
Credit: The Atlantic
Looks like the smartphone can not only sabotage your Leaving Cert: much more is at stake here. But it's not all bad.

There is one particular helpful thing you can do on your phone. Learn relaxation techniques. Go to Calm or Headspace on your phone and get started. They are kind of the same, Calm is in an American accent with soothing ocean sounds, and Headspace in a British accent with animations. I frequently post links to free trials (above their standard free trial), so stay tuned!

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About the authors
We are an ever-expanding team of students who got 625 points.
Martina curates all material. She is a longtime devotee of all things academic and got 8 A1s in her Leaving Cert. You can see her full academic credentials and career track on LinkedIn.

More on getting organised:

625 points Leaving Cert Notes
Leaving Cert Sample Answers and Notes

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