Our phones impact our lives in many ways. The fact that we spend a lot of time on our phones is not a secret. A lot of that time is spent productively. Modern smartphones are fantastic tools for keeping us connected, informed, and productive. However, more recent studies have started showing that our love for our phones has started affecting our focus negatively. Especially while we are working. The numerous smartphone apps and tools have made us extremely dependent on them. We de-stress between work by scrolling through hundreds of pictures on Instagram. We have long discussions with random people on Twitter instead of answering the emails in the work inbox. The latest research shows that context switching is bad for productivity. It slows us down, then makes us feel rushed, pushing us closer to a burnout. For you to do your best work, you need to control your screen time. And that includes everything on your phone, whether you love going through memes on 9GAG, watching cooking videos on YouTube, playing games downloaded on App Store or through a mobile casino. From social media you’re scrolling through your friends’ Facebook feed, or checking out others Instagram stories. You need to control the time spent looking at the screen. Let’s find out more about the time spent on our phones during the day.
Time Spent on Phones: Things to Know
How much screen time do we spend every day?
On average, people spend three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day. While that might be the average, the top 20% (“power users”) spend more than 4.5 hours on their phones.
And while you think you might spend more time browsing your phone during the weekend, that’s not the case. Since most people like going out or staying home for finishing pending chores on weekends, they actually use their phones more during weekdays than weekends.
How many times do people check their phones in a day?
According to a recent Deloitte survey, average American smartphone users check their phones 47 times a day (more than half of that comes at work). It has been discovered that when it comes to distracting people from work, the number of times people check their phones has more impact than the total number of hours spent looking at the phone.
How long do people spend on their phones every time?
Most people spend about 1 minute and 15 seconds on their phone each time they pick them up. This means we’re losing 37.5 minutes a day during working hours to our phones (at a minimum). On top of that, most users struggle to go beyond a few minutes before checking their phone again. As a matter of fact, half of all phone pickups happen within 3 minutes of a previous one. Here’s where things start to get a little hairy. While you might think that a half hour or more of screen time during the workday isn’t an issue, there’s something deeper we need to dive into: Frequency of phone use. Switching the context repeatedly is horrible for productivity.
Back in 2004, researchers Victor M. González and Gloria Mark of UC Irvine found that on a typical day, most people can only spend 3 minutes on a specific task before they feel like switching over to something else. Guess what, this was before the advent of smartphones.
Most smartphone users are on their devices for short bursts. They send texts or emails and then get back to it when they get a response. Over 70% of screen time spurts last less than two minutes. However, these short sessions can add up quickly and you will end up spending a lot of time on your smartphone overall.
Is using your phone during work harmful?
Let’s take a situation where you are busy at work and you get a text from your partner. The text could just be some non-urgent informal communication, such as “how is your day going?”. Now, that sounds innocuous at first and not really distracting. However, once you respond to it by saying “Good, yours?”, you open the door for the follow up question. That can trigger a chain reaction and you might end up having a conversation for half an hour. This will take your focus off work and you will take some time regaining it. This will slow you down considerably. Brief mental blocks created because of constant shifting between tasks can eat up as much as 40% of your productivity. Smartphones can be so distracting that a lot of people get distracted while just expecting a message from someone else. Even a switched off smartphone can bring our cognitive performance down.
How to reduce screen time?
Yes, smartphones are pretty much indispensable these days, but we must try to use them without being enslaved by them. These incredible tools can help us navigate an unfamiliar city, talk to our family and friends from across the planet, or teach us to cook chicken parmesan. However, with all the good, comes a lot of the bad, such as the distracting hurricane of social media, push notifications, and always-available entertainment. Here’s how you can reduce your screen time.
Social media apps have the power to suck you into a vortex where you will lose track of time and before you know it, you’d have spent hours on a social media platform. One good piece of advice is to log out of social media apps or delete them altogether. If you don’t want to do either of that, at least disable those pesky notifications. The time spent on social media, especially if you get into a pointless argument, adds up really fast.
2. Make a “Distraction free” home screen
Is the first thing you see on your phone’s home screen Infinity Pools and little red dots? If so, you’re setting yourself up for distraction. Instead, try moving all unnecessary or distracting apps off your home screen and to the 3rd or 4th one instead.
Keep the things that genuinely help you—maps, your camera, messages—but get rid of anything distracting. You can also have a customized lock screen with a message that discourages you from using your phone.
3. Turn off notifications (or go into do-not-disturb mode while working)
Most apps send notifications to their users, in many cases it’s helpful. But a lot of time, notifications can also control how often you are interacting with your phone. So it’s best to disable notifications from all non-essential apps. You can also use the phone’s Do Not Disturb Mode (DND) to prevent notifications from popping up and disturbing you. As per The Outline’s Paris Martineau:
“Sure, the downside is I don’t answer texts and emails immediately, but the upside is I don’t answer texts and emails immediately.
“It’s fantastically relaxing and comes with the added bonus of giving your friends and loved ones the impression you’re doing something interesting or fulfilling with your life, rather than just scrolling through Twitter and not continually responding to the pressure of push notifications.”
4. Use your laptop more
In order to reduce smartphone usage and distractions, Digital Detangler founder, Pete Dunlap, suggests pushing as much of your actions to your laptop:
“Your laptop is usually closed while you are driving or eating with other people. While the smartphone tends to butt into those moments in ways that make us less safe and present.
“Also, the lack of a keyboard is a design choice demonstrating that smartphones are primarily media consumption devices—great at typing out snippets like tweets or hashtags on Instagram photos, poor at doing anything complex or meaningful.”
So, using your laptop for a majority of your digital work is a great way to get some digital detox going and staving off that smartphone addiction.