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Is Your Smartphone Addiction Hurting Your Career?

Topics: Career Advice
Beeping, buzzing, constantly tempting — smartphones are always nearby, wanting our attention. But if you’re finding yourself checking your phone too much, you might be risking more than your attention span.
smartphone addiction
Porapak Apichodilok/Pexels

Employers won’t take kindly to a worker who can’t keep their eyes off their phone during working hours (and outside them, too). Here’s how to know if you might have a problem, and what to do about it!

How to Know You Have a Problem

While some might think that “always being connected” makes for a good employee, it’s just not true. With modern technology you have this little distraction device in your possession at all times. And while many employers have some internal guidelines that say smartphones aren’t to be used for non-work things during working hours, it’s common to sneak that peak at Facebook or your personal email if the opportunity arises.

Is Your Smartphone Like a Slot Machine?

Checking your phone for validation in the social currency of “likes” or “hearts” can be just as addictive as pulling that lever in Vegas.

So says ethicist and former Google designer Tristan Harris in his essay, How Technology Hijacks Peoples’ Minds.

“If you’re an app, how do you keep people hooked? Turn yourself into a slot machine,” Harris writes. He calls these bits of happiness we get from apps “intermittent variable rewards.”

As Julian Morgan points out at Vice, “The easiest way to understand this term is by imagining a slot machine. You pull the lever to win a prize, which is an intermittent action linked to a variable reward. Variable meaning you might win, or you might not. In the same way, you refresh your Facebook updates to see if you’ve won. Or you swipe right on Tinder to see if you’ve won.”

The Impact on Your Workday

How does that add up? If you were to clock the amount of time you’re “wasting” on your phone, you’d likely be shocked.

“As Facebook’s current head of marketing bragged in this speech, the average millennial checks his or her phone 157 times daily. That’s a total average of 145 minutes every day that we’re trying to feel connected, validated, and liked,” Morgan writes.

The average millennial checks his or her phone 157 times daily.Click To Tweet

And while you might not think that little check “just for a second” isn’t really impacting your workday, you’re so, so wrong.

“Every time you switch your focus from one thing to another, there’s something called a switch-cost,” says Dr. Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Time. “Your brain stumbles a bit, and it requires time to get back to where it was before it was distracted.”

How to Deal with the Phone in the Room

There are lots of ways to cut down on how your smartphone is eating into your productivity. You can:

  1. Keep that phone away. Put it in a drawer, turn it off and give it a rest.
  2. Use an app to train your brain to work — and take breaks. Something like a timer app can help you see work as a time for heads down productivity, and a break as a reward that comes when you need it (not when something’s beeping to tell you that you have a new like on that puppy post).
  3. Turn off those push notifications. Getting work email can be good, until it interferes with your home life — and vice versa. Keep some work/life balance by turning off those pushy pings.

Still not convinced you have a problem? Try this quick quiz from UnitedHealth to see how much your phone is controlling you, and what you can do to break its hold.

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Tell Us What You Think

Have you successfully broken your smartphone addiction? We want to hear from you. Tell us how you did it in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.


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