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Addicted to Your Smartphone? Here's What to Do

Why smartphones hook us in, plus tips on reclaiming your time and concentration.
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Managing Your Smartphone Use

Can't give up your phone altogether? Experts suggest these steps to control your usage:

  • Be conscious of the situations and emotions that make you want to check your phone. Is it boredom? Loneliness? Anxiety? Maybe something else would soothe you.
  • Be strong when your phone beeps or rings. You don't always have to answer it. In fact, you can avoid temptation by turning off the alert signals.
  • Be disciplined about not using your device in certain situations (such as when you're with children, driving, or in a meeting) or at certain hours ( for instance, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.). "You'll be surprised and pleased to rediscover the pleasures of being in control of your attention," Carr says.

One group of business people at The Boston Group, a consulting firm, discovered just that when they participated in an experiment run by Perlow. 

As described in her book, Sleeping with Your Smartphone, the group found that taking regular "predictable time off" (PTO) from their PDAs resulted in increased efficiency and collaboration, heightened job satisfaction, and better work-life balance. 

Four years after her initial experiment, Perlow reports, 86% of the consulting staff in the firm's Northeast offices -- including Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. -- were on teams engaged in similar PTO experiments.

To manage my own smartphone well, more smartly, I weaned myself away from it. 

I started by not checking it for 15 minutes at a time, then 30, then 60 (unless I was dealing with an urgent situation). 

I decided to avoid using the web browser on the smartphone unless I truly needed information (such as an address or phone number). 

And I swore off using social media on it entirely. I also made a firm commitment to not text, email, or surf the web on my smartphone while driving.

The result? Even after a few days of this self-discipline, I found that I was concentrating better, more aware of my surroundings, and more relaxed -- and I was more aware of when I was looking for something specific, as opposed to just looking for some kind of connection.

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Reviewed on June 21, 2012
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