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  • Writer's pictureMartin Williams

Mobile Phones - Taking Back Control

Whilst attending to a young client, who has come to recognise that her device usage is excessive and unhealthy, I was given pause for thought, for it also made me reflect on how much time I’ve been spending on my phones recently.



I carry 2 mobiles, as I like to keep my personal and business phones entirely separate, and what I discovered was quite startling. Quite by chance, around the time I was working with my client, one of my phones provided me with a summary of how much I’d been using it – my daily average was almost 2½ hours a day. I then checked with my second phone and that was registering around 2 hours per day over the course of the week. Less than 1 hour of that time was actually business related.


The fact that I was spending over 4 hours per day looking at my phones appalled me. It wasn’t quite in the realms of extreme usage that my client was clocking up, but it wasn’t exactly in the healthy range either.


My recent research tells me that we all use our mobiles, on average, between 1 ½ and 3 hours a day (the spread is, unsurprisingly, age related). This fact alone surprised me - I had been using my devices approximately twice as much as the average person in my age range.


It made me ask the question, why am I doing this? After some reflection and honest soul searching, I realised that I was mostly using my mobiles as a coping mechanism for anxiety. My regular checking them for messages (and then often staying on them to scroll through Facebook or to play a game or two) was an act of avoidance. This resulted in some serious procrastination for the many things that I needed to get done.


Some of the anxieties I was facing was to do with publications I was preparing for business development purposes. I was worried I would make a mistake or they wouldn’t be good enough. One of the things I was seeking was reassurance, and another was connection. And this is one of the most seductive things about our devices - they create the illusion of making us feel better connected but they can actually increase our feelings of isolation instead.


This first step in creating awareness for what was really driving my phone use was crucial.


My client’s device use is also driven largely by anxiety, but of a different form to mine (fear of missing out, fear of being disconnected if she doesn’t respond soon enough to various social media updates, etc.). Other reasons she was turning to the phone included loneliness and boredom. She was also concerned that she had developed ADHD. However, now that we are aware of how much she uses the phone, we have determined that this is most likely just a symptom caused by the constant interruptions of alerts and notifications.


So, how can we tackle this? Here is a suggested 5-step process which I successfully followed for myself and which I am now helping my client work through:

  1. Measure phone use (I think all devices have this function these days), then set new target limits and reward ourselves if we achieve them.

  2. Determine why we’re using the device so much. This requires a real openness and honesty which many struggle to apply to themselves.

  3. Develop the habit of switching the phone off (or at least putting them out of reach) when you’re trying to achieve something.

  4. Don’t use the phone for at least 1 hour before your planned sleep time and ensure all notifications are turned off so that it will not disturb you during the night.

  5. Work on self-development & coping strategies. We need to find healthier, more effective habits with which to replace the time we spend on our phones (eg. spending time with family/friends, meditation, exercise, reading, hobbies, etc.). Ultimately, we need to develop more meaningful connections (offline) to create a better support network to combat our sense of isolation.

It worked for me. I am now back within average phone use range and my work productivity has improved as a result (this article being a clear demonstration of this as it was one of the tasks I was previously procrastinating over)


We can, of course, all take similar actions by ourselves. However, getting help from a counsellor can be really helpful in this regard, especially when it comes to building that understanding of the root causes of our excessive phone use and helping us create new habits to make better, healthier and more productive use of our time.



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