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Confessions of an addict

My name is Norm and I’m addicted . . . to my smartphone.

When I’m out to dinner, I’m checking it, just like everyone else in the restaurant. In meetings, it’s on the table so I can eyeball the screen. When driving, the email alert has me looking down to see where it originated. Oh yeah, I’m addicted.

But here’s the good news: I can escape my addiction whenever I want to. That’s because I subscribe to the philosophy described over the door of legendary Indiana coach Bobby Knight’s office: “Every man must believe in something – I believe I’ll go fishing!”

When I’m offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, as little as 9 miles out, I have no cell service. Nothing can reach me. I no longer think about it. I don’t even keep the phone in my pocket. It’s a sweet taste of freedom.

The undeniable truth is smartphones now consume our society. We talk, we text, we tweet, we Facebook, we Instagram and, worst of all, we get buried in daily emails. More than 100 billion emails are sent daily. And, notably, on the job, email takes up 23 percent of an average employee’s workday, according to technology market research firm The Radicati Group.

Other research conducted for CareerBuilder once looked at what causes workers to waste the most time – dubbed the productivity killers. Personal use of technology showed up huge. A quarter of the surveyed workers admitted that, during a typical workday, they will spend at least one hour a day on personal texts, emails and calls. Moreover, 21 percent acknowledged they also spend at least one hour during the workday searching the Internet for non-work-related information.

Let’s see now – that’s an hour for email and texting, another hour playing in the “amusement park” of the internet, as author Nicholas Carr calls it in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.” So, two hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year . . . well, that’s a lot of productivity out the window for any business.

Now I’m not about to suggest declaring a dealership a personal email-free zone. That’s not to say, however, that employees shouldn’t be made aware that lost productivity isn’t acceptable. Rather, it’s this personal addiction to our smartphones that’s worth our individual attention.

Shawn Parr, CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy, points out that these days, smartphones have produced “that absorbed look of combined urgency, importance and disconnection from the immediate world all around us.”

In is article “Extreme Connectivity” in Southwest (airlines) Magazine, Parr suggests the cure for addiction. First, he says we must recognize the signs. “Do you read emails in bed?” he asks. “Text while driving? Eat dinner with phone in hand?” If so, here are his five remedies:

(1) Schedule a phone-free hour every day. Turn the thing off. (2) Unplug from all devices for at least one weekend day. (3)Turn the phone off in meetings. If you’re bored, doodle. (4) Declare every dinner table a phone-free zone. (5) Never text while driving.

He rightly holds that the greatest device for connecting with others might be our phone’s off button.

But let me offer my even better, proven method of beating this addiction. Just get in the boat, go where you lose service and soak up that wonderful feeling of escape while you enjoy those who are around you. It works.



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