Please Get Off the Phone: 3 Steps for Breaking the Addiction at Work

For many years I reported to the same manager. He was very supportive and made time frequently to meet in person, one-on-one, to discuss both my ongoing work and my development. Then something changed. My manager became very distracted. The source of this distraction? His new smartphone.

Every time it buzzed or beeped, he would stop focusing on our conversation and grab the phone to explore the source—a new Facebook post, an email, a text, etc. Pretty soon I found myself not really wanting to get together with him. And I wasn’t the only one—my boss’s other direct reports were feeling the same way.

Actor Emilio Estevez is quoted as saying “We have all these devices that keep us connected, and yet we’re more disconnected than ever before.” I agree.

The distracted, disjointed experience I had with my boss has become a daily occurrence for millions of people, both on the job and in their private lives. Overuse of cell phones has become an actual addiction. I wonder if the inventors of the smartphone or social media platforms could have ever imagined the harmful potential of their device or service. I also wonder—often aloud: Does the fact that we can stare at our phones 24/7 mean we should?

So how might we move differently going forward?

  • Be aware. The first step is awareness. Over the next couple of days, chart how many times and how much time you spend interacting with your device. (Ironically, there are apps that will do this for you.) Make a note of the specific triggers that prompt your use.
  • Ask: Can it wait? When you reach to check your phone, ask yourself: Is this really important or can it wait? Chances are, it can wait.
  • Take face to face literally. Make in-person meetings sacred. Keep your phone off the table and on silent mode. Anything else you are doing needs to take a back seat.

For many people, these behaviors will be challenging. So be kind to yourself—two steps forward, one step back. The key is to alter your behavior by keeping the goal of less time on your device top of mind.

I heard someone say we all need a retreat from our electronic gadgets. Now you know what I think about that statement. What do you think?

About the Author

Joanne Maynard headshot.jpeg

Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

4 thoughts on “Please Get Off the Phone: 3 Steps for Breaking the Addiction at Work

  1. For me, it’s more of an issue in my private life. I’ve had to say many times to my significant other that I will not compete for his attention with a smart device. That he needs to disengage. In the workplace or at home, we should not let those that we work with to think that they are not worthwhile, it can do alot of damage to the relationship and to our connections with those in our lives.

    • Thanks for your comment Rose and you are right. It’s not just at work but with our loved ones too! I’m glad you are setting a boundary that you will not compete with a smart device for your significant other’s attention.

  2. Hi, Joanne! Just last night I had one of those “one-way conversations” with myself about the phone! I realized that it was ok to leave it on the dresser in the bedroom and spend some time connecting face-to-face with my family. Phone usage needs to be prioritized in our lives, especially when we need to personally connect with the people in our lives. Great post!

    • Hi Bryan – I love the idea of leaving your phone in another room. Congrats on walking away from it and connecting face-to-face with your family. I know walking away from your phone can sometimes be a difficult thing to do. Keep up the good work!

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