While facilitating a recent mastermind meeting where the members were conducting an intensive deep dive review of one of their businesses, I asked everyone to place their cell phones on the bar with the intention of giving the owner the benefit of our full attention. You would have thought I asked a child to give up their favorite toy.  Some moved them willingly, others were reluctant, but eventually complied and some would not budge.

Smartphone Withdrawal

Recent studies show that we experience true withdrawal symptoms when we can’t use our smartphones.  Last year 60 minutes did a segment on the impact our phones have on our state of mind. And now activist investors are pleading with Apple to address what they see as a growing public-health crisis of childhood phone addiction.  I think its absurd to hold Apple accountable for the actions of others. It’s akin to holding automobile manufacturers responsible for the collisions of drunk drivers.

Nevertheless, I do believe we are addicted to our smartphones and it's our responsibility to use technology wisely.  During a 360-feedback session for an executive client, one of his staff members asked him to refrain from constantly checking and using his phone during his staff meetings.

Thoughtfully Manage Your Time and Energy in a Ruthless Way

Your smartphone can be a breeding ground for procrastination. Whether it’s perusing news sites, checking social media likes and comments, keeping up with celebrity gossip, or constantly checking messages, it can all lead to long periods without accomplishing anything. While being productive every minute of the day is practically impossible unless you are a robot, the key is becoming productively unproductive. Instead of picking up your phone every few minutes, keep a running list of quick, minor tasks to accomplish when you have short periods of time. When you have a few minutes between calls or meetings, start crossing items off the list.

Teach Others How To Interact with You

Quite often peers and staff members provide feedback for my executive clients around their lack of responsiveness to communication. The best way for leaders to address responsiveness issues is to teach others the best ways to interact with you and set expectations. When I worked for Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor, a staff member would send long, detailed technical emails which were nearly impossible to read. After my coaching, he began starting his emails with a short synopsis followed by the detail for those interested. Now I teach my coaching clients how to get a fast response from me when they need it.  As a result, I need only check my phone every few hours and email twice a day thereby ending the compulsive need to continually check my phone.

Try this test

Schedule a time when your family is safely accounted for and no one from the office will be looking for you. Start the stopwatch on your smartphone and walk away. You can lock the phone in a drawer, put it in another room of the house, or give it to a spouse for safekeeping. How soon do you start feeling anxious?

Post your time in the comments.