Are you someone who canít help but check your smartphone for new texts or emails, even when youíre hanging out with friends? Youíre definitely not alone. According to the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, most smartphone users have developed something called "checking habits.Ē Thatís the term for repetitive, mindless checks of email and social media apps, like Facebook. The average user does a mindless 30-second smartphone check at least twice an hour and some are as often as every 10 minutes. And itís not necessarily because they need to check, but because itís a habit, a compulsion, or even an addiction.

Experts say mindless checks arenít just annoying to others, theyíre actually huge productivity killers. Because every time you check your phone, it takes a minimum of four minutes to get your focus back on your original task.

Hereís how to tell if youíre a smartphone addict:

  • You check your email much more often than necessary. Even when you repeatedly find nothing new in your inbox.
  • You're annoying people. If you hear ďput the phone awayĒ more than once a day, youíve probably got a problem.
  • The thought of not checking your phone drives you nuts. Try putting your phone away for an hour. If you get all itchy and anxious, you might be a habitual checker.

So, whatís the fix?

  • Acknowledge you have a problem. Psychologist and expert on technology at MIT, Dr. Sherry Turkle, says thatís important because once youíre aware of a habit, you can unlearn it.
  • Create smartphone-free zones. Pick places like your bedroom, and the dining room table. If you have to walk down the hall to grab your phone, youíre less likely to mindlessly check your apps.
  • Pile your silenced phones on the table. Try this trick when youíre eating out with family or friends. Then, whoever checks their phone first, pays the bill.

Lesson Expert

Jennifer Boller