An addiction is anything that controls your life to the point of interfering with daily activities, work and personal relationships. Are you addicted to your devices?

Technology should enable and enhance performance, but over-reliance on it can reduce productivity. When you’re addicted to your devices the proverbial tail is wagging the dog.

Note it down

To determine if you’re addicted to your phone, go without for a while. Keep a little notebook where you’d usually carry your phone and every time you reach for it, take a note of why you were going to use it.

By doing this your triggers become clear. While we think we need to be constantly connected to technology to keep our businesses running, our drivers for phone use are often meaningless and distracting.

Try it.

You’ll realise that you’re reaching for your phone to avoid uncomfortable social interactions, to overcome boredom, to look for quick answers to questions (which aren’t always the right ones), or for instant gratification.

To help executives improve their performance it’s useful to develop ‘unplugging strategies’. That is, deliberate strategies to create time and space away from devices so you can invest in downtime, relationship time and high-value work time.

4 strategies to break device addiction

1. Start the day without technology

Where possible start the day this no technology for the first 30-60 minutes of each day. At home, replace the device habit breakfast with your family, exercise, meditation or journal time. This time contributes to your personal happiness, your professional resilience and mental clarity.
Rather than checking email as the first task of your work day, the first hour should be dedicated to a pre-planned high-value task.
If you have global responsibilities, it’s difficult not to check your phone as soon as you wake up, however even a 30-minute delay can help you take control of your day.

Ask your global colleagues to indicate in subject lines the responses which require an immediate response, a response by end of day their time, and a response that is required end of day your time. This will allow you to prioritise email from international colleagues at a glance.

2. Unplug during proactive time

Create uninterrupted time to put the best of yourself into the work you do. Ideally, you should carve out 60% of your week for important work. At a minimum aim for up to 2 hours per day.
Turn off your notifications and only check email during specific times of the day. Unless you are waiting for important information, there’s no reason to check your inbox when you’re attending to important work.

3. End the day without technology

The personal and professional value of sleep is finally being realised. Research has now found that working under the influence of lack of sleep is similar to working under the influence of alcohol.

In addition to the impact of blue light on our ability to sleep, interaction with our phones immediately before bed creates mental stimulus rather than a routine that helps us wind down. Replace phone time before bed with other rituals—bath, meditation, peppermint tea, family time, reading.

In the current connected environment, we are often required to take part in late-night calls. Put aside 10 minutes after the call to diarise follow ups (avoid late-night emailing) and then switch off and power down.

4. Engage with people and manage expectations

Electronic communication should enable relationships. Use technology to organise in-person connections. Don’t allow email to replace in-real-life communication.
Make it a rule not to bring phones and tablets to the kitchen or meeting table. Realise the benefits of eye contact.

Manage expectations as you change your habits around the use of technology.

When you ask your colleagues, managers, clients and direct reports how quickly they expect a response to communication you may be surprised.

Rarely are we truly required to check our phones every 10 minutes as so many are prone to do.

With device addiction being so prevalent, everyone should have an unplugging strategy. What’s yours?