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Confessions of an Addict

The author tastes freedom from his smartphone addiction by going fishing.

The author tastes freedom from his smartphone addiction by going fishing.

When I’m out to dinner, I’m checking it. Look around, so is everyone else in the restaurant. In meetings, it’s on the table where I can eyeball the screen. When driving, the email alert has me looking down to see where it’s from. Oh yes, I’m addicted, and I know I’m not alone!

But here’s the good news: I can escape my addiction whenever I want to. That’s because I subscribe to the philosophy printed on a plaque over the office door of legendary Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight: “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 that smartphones now consume our lives. We talk, we text, we tweet, we Facebook, we Instagram and, worst of all, we get buried in emails! Over 100 billion emails are sent daily. And, notably, on the job, email takes up 23 percent of an average employee’s workday, according to an old from the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm.

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. Who knew?

Added up, 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 hurts the company and everyone in it. Rather, it’s this personal addiction to our smartphones that’s worth our individual attention.

In an article entitled “Extreme Connectivity” from Southwest, the in-flight magazine of the airline, Shawn Parr, then CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy, offered a cure for our addition.

First, he wrote, we must recognize the signs. “Do we read emails in bed?” he asked. “Text while driving (illegal in nay states)? Always eat dinner with phone in hand? Do we exhibit a look of combined urgency, importance and disconnection from the immediate world all around us?” If so, he suggests 5 remedies:

• Schedule a phone-free hour every day. Turn the thing off!

• Unplug from all devices for at least one weekend day.

• Turn the phone off in meetings. If you’re bored, doodle.

• Declare every dinner table a phone-free zone.

• Never text while driving.

He rightly holds that the greatest device for person-to-person connecting with others may be our smartphone’s off button.

But let me offer my even better, absolute proven method of beating this addiction. This Memorial Day holiday weekend, as we officially kick-off the 2021 boating season, just get in a boat, go where you lose service — or simply leave the phone ashore — and soak up that wonderful feeling of escape that only casting off in a boat and enjoying those with you can bring.

Take it from me, a former addict, it works every time!

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