When you are pulling out your iPhone in a beautiful place to visit websites & apps that you don’t care about to find information that you don’t need… you might have a problem. Here’s a bit of executive coaching on what to do about it.
There I was. In my favorite place in all of San Diego, on my sailboat in Point Loma. It was a beautiful day, with a gentle breeze and waves gently slapping against the hull as the boat sat in its slip.
And what was I doing?
Was I working on one of many tedious (but enjoyable) boat projects? Was I preparing the boat for an afternoon sail? Was I walking the docks to talk to other sailors and friends?
No, I was down below, sitting down looking at my iPhone.
For whatever reason, on this particular occasion the ridiculousness of this set in, and I thought to myself: if I’m just going to look at my phone I might as well be at home. Or in my office. Or pretty much anywhere.
Yes, on this, one of very, very few days that I get to myself (as a father with two kids under three), I was looking at my damn phone.
Email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google News…
There was nothing urgent. I wasn’t waiting for a particular email from anyone. I didn’t care about any sports game.
Yet there I was, staring at this stupid device and wasting precious moments.
I don’t know what it is, but an iPhone has started to be the device that I rely on to entertain me in every waking moment.
I used to have an even bigger issue with the iPhone. It used to represent (at least in my mind) my job asking me to do more work. The phone would buzz to indicate an incoming message and I would get that shot of adrenaline and cortisol as I thought about what professional demands someone was placing on me.
I hated that phone, but I felt obligated because it was part of giving my best to my employer. And that was about character (at least to me).
Or that is what I told myself. The fact is, it is very easy to tell yourself that you need to check your phone for work or for your business. In reality, what are the odds of one of my executive coaching or career coaching clients needing to speak to me at 10:00am on a Saturday?
What are the odds of your boss absolutely needing to speak to you on Saturday morning or afternoon? What about a Wednesday evening? And if he/she does email you about something urgent, is it really an expectation that you will reply within 20 minutes?
And are you really using your phone to do work or to feel like you are being productive/connecting with people/etc?
Unplug. Spend some time away from your phone. Especially on the weekends, but even better during the week.
Yes, I confess to formerly having been the corporate soldier who came home from work, greeted the wife and kids, and then checked my email 37 times in the next couple hours as dinner was prepared, eaten and kids were put to bed.
I’m guessing some of you can relate. Here is some executive coaching on things you can do to defend yourself from excessive iPhone use:
Protect your sleep –iPhones have a “do not disturb” function that lets all calls, emails, texts, etc come in but stops the phone from buzzing, ringing, making a sound, etc. You can set hours on it, so put it on for whenever you go to sleep (preferably well earlier) to whenever you wake up. The system is designed so that if someone calls you twice in a row within a couple minutes, the ringer will activate, so you won’t miss that emergency call. This is an absolute game changer, and eliminates that 2am wakeup when the technology department decides to send an email about their update.
Bury Facebook and other distracting apps in a subfolder – I do this with Facebook, which is a useless waste of time 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time it just upsets you with absurd political commentary. The key is to make the app inconvenient to get to. If you need to scroll to the third page, open a folder and then open another folder to open Facebook, chances are you’ve had a chance to reflect on the fact that you are about to waste some time with your head buried in your screen and have a moment to think better of it.
Change your email fetch settings – Most of us have our emails set to “push.” In other words, as soon as the email is sent, we receive it in our inbox and get notified. By going into settings you can change the email to “fetch” mode and choose how often you want your phone to “fetch” the email that is waiting for it. You can select settings from every 15 minutes to every hour or better yet, manually, which means the email will only be downloaded when you open up your mailbox. Stopping the random alerts that come from emails coming in can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Make email serve you rather than the other way around.
Protect your weekends – In the world of corporate executives, Sunday afternoon/evening is when email traffic usually heats up, which means expectations are generally lower for the rest of the weekend. Switch your fetch settings to manual (or at least hourly) outside of these hours and enjoy some uninterrupted time.
Pile up phones during dinner – Whether you are having dinner with friends or family, one great technique is to stack your phones on the table (face down). The penalty for picking up your phone during dinner is paying the check for everyone (when out to dinner with friends) or washing the dishes (when home). This way everyone stays engaged and not looking at phones.
Leave your phone off (but in your car) for the day – This is really hard to do. I know that the last time I forgot my phone was on the way to Home Depot, and I felt absolutely naked without it (at least initially, then it felt great). My suggestion is to leave your phone off but in the car, which means you have it in the event of an emergency, but are altogether unreachable.
Have a device free day – Imagine, no smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. for a whole day. Nearly unimaginable, but how freeing!
In implementing any of these suggestions, I highly recommend experimentation. In other words, try “do not disturb” functionality for the most conservative of hours if you are nervous about it, for example from midnight to 5am. –At least you’ll get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Then, after doing that for a while, expand the hours a bit, adding an hour or so until you get to something that works for you. I found that 10pm to 6am worked fine for me as a corporate executive, despite my prior beliefs to the contrary.
Finally, if you are looking for motivation, check out the video below which has been viewed by over 55 million people. The poetic video explains so beautifully how easily a transformational moment in your life can be missed by looking down at a screen.
So, what did I do on my sailboat after realizing I was wasting precious moments looking at my iPhone?
I walked the docks, gathered some friends and went for a sail. Fortunately, my iPhone only comes out for pictures while I’m out on the water.
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