07/04/2013 09:52 am ET

Why This Harvard Economist Thinks You Should Unplug & Recharge


Epiphanies often come at the most unexpected moments. When Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan accidentally dropped his cell phone in a toilet, he had an important realization: Being overly connected was preventing him from better focus and productivity.

Without having to worry about sending and receiving texts and emails, Mullainathan found that he was more present that evening at a dinner with friends -- and he even had a better time than he might have otherwise.

"My bandwidth for those two hours was focused on the thing I wanted to be focused on," he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival, as quoted in a LinkedIn blog last week.

According to Mullainathan, our problem in the workplace isn't that we have too little time. It's that we don't have enough mental "bandwidth," as he puts it, to focus on important tasks and projects -- partly because we're constantly distracted by technology. Now, he no longer has work email on his phone, and he avoids checking email before a meeting in order to be less distracted.

"All those times that I thought I was using my time well -- 'Hey, I've got five minutes, let me check my email' -- I was actually using my bandwidth badly," he said.

Similarly, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner also advocates slowing down and putting free time on the calendar as a way to create more mental bandwidth. For Weiner, avoiding constant busyness by scheduling free time during each day helps to foster innovation and strategic thinking.

"As the company grows larger... you will require more time than ever before to just think," Weiner wrote.

Head over to our Unplug & Recharge page for more digital detox inspiration.

[H/t LinkedIn.]



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