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How to Keep Your Smartphone From Taking Over Your Life

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Javier Brosch/Shutterstock.com

As smartphone addicted people around the world await Apple CEO Tim Cook’s introduction of the iPhone 6 tomorrow, perhaps this is a good day to think about how to keep your smartphone from taking over your life. While I was doing the research for my new book, I came across a lot of interesting stats about just how addicted many people are to their phones and how that affects their lives.

For instance, one study I saw reported that the majority of smartphone owners are never more than 5 feet away from their device. Likewise, many people report that the first thing they do when they wake up and the last thing they do before going to bed is check their phone. Maybe that’s why, as the the Center for Creative Leadership learned in a 2013 study that the average smartphone enabled executive, manager or professional is connected to his work an average of 72 hours a week.

So, perhaps your smartphone has already taken over your life or maybe it’s about to. Whatever your threat level, here are some ideas for how to reclaim your life from your smart phone.

Schedule It—As the Center for Creative Leadership study suggests, one of the things our smartphones do is allow us to monitor work all the time. Checking email on your phone can become a mindless, reflexive response whenever you have a free moment (or even when you don’t). Consider getting into the habit of scheduling time to check your phone for email throughout the day and ignore the email in between scheduled check-ins.

Turn Off the Notification—You’re going to stand a much better chance of sticking to your schedule if your phone doesn’t buzz incessantly throughout the day. Set the notifications so vibrate and sound notifications are turned off. If there are people you must absolutely respond to at any time (your boss, your kids, your dog) set the VIP feature in your phone to notify you of their calls, texts, emails, tweets, whatever.

Throw the Phones in a Box—OK, so you’re being an awesome citizen and not checking your phone during meetings and conversations but everyone else is still in ADD mode with their device. The next time you step into the room together, pass around a box and ask everyone to toss their phone in the box (maybe with a Post It note with their name on it) so they can pick it up when the meeting ends. I’ve done this and, while people freak out at first, it works and everyone enjoys the meeting much more. You can do the same thing in restaurants. Put your phones in the middle of the table before ordering. The first one to reach for theirs picks up the check.

Set a Phone Free Zone—One executive I know has come up with a brilliant way to keep her phone from intruding on her time with her family in the evening. She keeps her phone charger in the laundry room and, when she pulls into the garage each evening, plugs her phone in there as she walks through to the kitchen. The phone stays in the laundry room until the kids go to bed. Meanwhile, she can be fully present with her family.

Don’t Read in Bed—You may have seen the recent studies like this one reported in Scientific American that conclude that the blue light that emits from your phone screen can keep you awake and from falling into a restful sleep. At first, I didn’t believe it then decided to give it a try. The difference was amazing. I proved this to myself a few nights ago when I couldn’t pull myself away from a book on my Kindle app and read for 20 minutes before falling asleep. Even though it was a great book (Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand), it wasn’t worth the two hours of tossing and turning I had trying to fall asleep.

I could go on with ideas to keep your smartphone from taking over your life but, in the interest of brevity, will stop here.

How about you, what tips or hacks can you share for keeping your smart phone from taking over your life?

(Image via Javier Brosch/Shutterstock.com)

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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