Admit it. You’ve tried, but it’s almost impossible to put down your smartphone. You turn away; it dings, buzzes, vibrates and beckons. The next thing you know you are swiping away precious minutes of your day or evening.
If you are truly addicted, overusing your smartphone can interrupt your sleep and cut back on the quality time you spend with the important people in your life — like your children — not to mention the danger of focusing on your phone when you should be watching where you are walking or driving!
Is it possible to get just what you need from that little glowing tyrant in your hand and achieve some balance? Yes, says James Roberts, Ph.D., a professor in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business; you can curb your use. Here are a few expert tips from his new book, Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?
- Banish while driving.
Roberts suggests you do not test your willpower while in the car. First, even talking with the help of a microphone is distracting— let alone trying to check a text. He advises you to place your smartphone in the trunk of your car before you hit the road. Case closed.
- Live in the zone.
Establish clear boundaries in your life for smartphone use. To make it simple, when you know you owe other people your time, you are in a “no smartphone” zone. Roberts suggests no phones at the dinner table, in the bedroom when you sharing couple time and certainly not at dinner with friends.
Designate the times during the day when you can check your phone, like the last 15 minutes of lunch or the half hour after dinner, and let it be.
- Pretend you are in flight.
Roberts describes your phone’s “airplane mode” setting as a great compromise. You can still have your phone available if you really need it, but you will not be lured by dings, pings and rings so that you can concentrate on important tasks, and well, life. Amazingly, he adds that the average American has an attention span of 8.5 seconds, so you can easily be distracted by electronic entertainment — ooh shiny!
- Make a deal with yourself.
Take a few moments to write a contract that clearly states when you can, and cannot, use your phone. Make sure you add some type of punishment for your behavior. (Get real; forcing yourself to do without TV one night won’t cut it.) Make your best buddy, partner or kids your enforcer.
- Buy a new alarm clock.
If you are truly an addict, having the smartphone next to your bed is too much of a temptation. Keep the smartphone near the door, and pick it up on your way to work in the morning, instead of running the risk of checking cat videos at 2 a.m. It’s not only a distraction, the light reduces your ability to fall asleep and achieve deep sleep, so it’s a lose-lose situation.
- Commit to your cause.
Bottom line, Roberts says, “all of the above suggestions will come to naught if you are not totally committed. You must convince yourself that curbing your smartphone use is essential to your happiness before you embark on this journey.”
Besides, if you are just a little older than 35, you remember a time when life was just peachy and smartphones didn’t even exist. So think back, tune out and spend some quality time reading a book.