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The question

I think I'm honestly addicted to my smartphone. Why do I check my work email all the time – even when I'm out with friends? How can I stop?

The answer

What a great question! I'm happy to give you some tips. Just give me a minute - a few urgent texts just popped up. Sorry, where were we?!

Being continuously distracted by emails, text messages and calls seems to be an unfortunate reality for many of us. There is no question that the changing nature of work – and advances in technology – have had a tremendous impact on our personal lives.

The first step is becoming aware of the problem, which you are. Unless we have some recognition of a problem even existing, we can't change.

Before you start to make any dramatic changes, think about why this is bothering you. Articulate your personal reasons for wanting to change, and the consequences of not changing.

Write down a list of pros and cons of constantly checking your work emails. How is this affecting your relationships and stress levels? Articulating the negative impacts on your life can help make you feel more committed to changing and can provide you with clear reasons that may serve an important motivating role for you

Think about the positives that come along with checking work emails, as you say, "all the time". Do you find you are actually saving time?

Are you receiving positive reinforcement from those you work with and for? The reality is that at some level, off-hours checking of your smart phone probably has some positive benefits.

Thinking about the pros can help guide you toward creative solutions. For example, if your daytime workload is lessened by responding to emails during off-hours times, you may find that waking up an hour early to spend dedicated time dealing with emails before the workday begins is much more preferable than having several hours of personal time being intermittently disrupted by work.

Here are some additional tips that can help:

1. Speak to your manager or supervisor and negotiate appropriate guidelines for email checking and response times. Remember – very few of us are in professions where immediate responses to emails are required, and often our usage of work emails is driven more by our own expectations and habits than it is by extrinsic expectations put on us.

2. Establish very clear parameters for acceptable email usage – and leverage the support of family and friends to call you on times you are becoming unduly preoccupied with work emails during personal time.

3. Set your smart phone so that email alerts are on silent during off-work hours. Or, better yet, leave your smart phone at home or out of sight when it is personal/social time!

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