Let me ease you in here…I do. Obsessively.
I wondered what was wrong with me until I read a recent study
that showed I'm hardly alone. In fact, my 'problem' seems to be
The study found that Smartphone users have developed what they
call "checking habits" repetitive checks of e-mail and other
applications such as Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIN. The checks
typically lasted less than 30 seconds and were often done within 10
minutes of each other. On average, the study subjects checked their
phones 34 times a day, not necessarily because they really needed
to check them that many times, but because it had become a habit or
I was talking to a friend who is a doctor recently and she was
telling me how she could never really relax when she's 'On Call'
overnight or at the weekend, as she's always on edge waiting for
the phone to ring with a challenging emergency call out. The
same must apply to an extent to most smartphone users. If
you're constantly checking your email or never let your work mobile
leave your side, surely you can never truly relax and rejuvenate,
ready to face the challenges of the days ahead.
So why do we constantly check our phones? Earlier this year, a
colleague started to realise, that he too, was habitually checking
his smartphone over and over without even thinking about it. "Each
time you get an e-mail, it's a small jolt, a positive feedback that
you're an important person," he says. "It's a little bit of an
addiction in that way."
The science to justify this suggests that the brain becomes
accustomed to this positive feedback, reaching out for the phone
becomes an automatic action you don't even think about
But what about the consequences of constant checking? I have to
admit my constant checking is starting to stress me out and is
really annoying my wife. Checking can also become a way for you to
avoid interacting with people or avoid doing the things you really
need to be doing. Checking is an attempt to not have to think hard,
but feel like you're doing something.
So how to get rid of this checking habit? Experts suggest having
'smartphone-free' times. See if you can stay away from your phone
for a few hours. You actually don't have to stay away from your
phone altogether -- you can just turn the e-mail function off (or
Facebook or whatever you're habitually checking). You can also
establish phone-free zones, such as in bed or at a push, at home
completely. You could also force yourself to stop checking when
you're in a social situation, like out to dinner with friends or
(my wife's real bug) on holiday, when your attention should be
solely on your family and relaxation.
I've acknowledged I want to step down my usage. I have come to
the conclusion that 'switching off' more will make me MORE not LESS
effective at my role in helping our business to grow. Perhaps in
the corporate world we should take a lead from my friend the
doctor's employers and instigate an 'On Call' system to make sure
that those who aren't 'on call' can literally (as well as
metaphorically) switch off.
Either way, Christmas is looming and that will be the real test
of my resolve!
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