Addiction: The repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it causes, because that involvement is (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable. 

I have a question for you.  

How much time do you spend on your smartphone every day? One hour? Two? Three? More? 

I would say that I am equally as ‘guilty’ as many of the overuse of my smartphone when I should be working. It’s just so tempting! 

Like me, I am sure you hear stories of people holidaying in remote places without a mobile phone signal and saying how liberating it can feel. If that is the case, why are we so hidebound to our mobiles in the workplace?  

Leaving aside the fact that we often need our phones to work and keep close to our networks, if you are being honest with yourself is your mobile phone addiction sabotaging your productivity? 

As a business development coach and trainer, I am always looking for new and innovative ways to encourage my clients to embed business development into their working days -without eating into their fee earning, administrative or personal time. 

One of the greatest challenges facing modern professionals is the tsunami of distractions in the workplace and choosing what to ignore. 

In supporting and guiding team members to become more productive (e.g. to earn more, bill more or go home on time) mobile phones are (in my opinion), one of the most significant causes of reduction in productivity.  

Let me set out two of the more obvious reasons why:

1. It encourages multitasking. Is looking at your phone whilst working on a matter ‘multitasking’? I would say so. There is powerful research which demonstrates that multitaskers are less productive than those who concentrate on one thing at a time. 

2. It is a subtle form of procrastination and thereby an impediment to efficient time management and productivity. 

In a 2013 study, two Professors of psychology defined procrastination as “the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task. 

That begs the question – is mobile phone addiction in the workplace (in essence) short-term mood repair? In many cases I believe so – like a quick hit of sugar. The background reasons may be multifaceted – boredom, the need for a break, fear of performing a task, not busy enough etc. 

If you are spending too much time in the workplace using your mobile phone for non-business-related activities, how would you spend that ‘extra’ time if I could reduce that usage? 

If you are reading this and recognising your own behaviour, what should be your strategy to reduce time spent on your smartphone in the office?  

Here are some basic steps:

  1. Take some time to consider your priorities. For example, do you need to spend more time with your family by leaving the office on time more regularly? Ultimately the solution must be internal, and not dependent on anything but yourself.
  2. Consider if you associate non work activity on your mobile with taking a break and ‘relaxing’. 
  3. Brutal as it may sound, for a couple of days record how much time you spend on your phone each day whilst in the office.  Many smartphones record screen time.

 Once you have a grasp of the extent of the problem, here are some practical suggestions for limiting your smartphone use:

  1. Give yourself a BBO – Bigger Better Offer. This means finding a better ‘reward’ than looking at your phone. What is important is not to replace your mobile phone with a substitute action that is still a form of procrastination. No easy task.
  2. Get busy. Substitute your non work mobile phone activity with ‘real’ business development activity – attending networking events, meeting key clients, writing relevant content. Remember that most of the important business development activity takes place off screen.
  3. Make the temptation less convenient. Hard as it may be to achieve, put your phone away or at least for those periods when you are concentrating on work. 
  4. If you think it will work for you, set screen time and app time limits
  5. Buy a second basic phone and only look at your smartphone away from the office
  6. Replace screen time in the office with more constructive breaks. Research has shown that walking improves the creative process.

In common with most addictions, a solution for one person will not work for another, and often a mixture of remedies are needed. What is guaranteed not to work is doing nothing about it. Like all of time management, reducing your non work mobile phone usage in the office is probably a never-ending journey. 

By the way, if you are reading this on your smartphone, that counts as work.

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