Are you someone who can’t help but check your smartphone for new texts or emails, even when you’re hanging out with friends? You’re definitely not alone. According to the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, most smartphone users have developed something called "checking habits.” That’s 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 it’s not necessarily because they need to check, but because it’s a habit, a compulsion, or even an addiction.

Experts say mindless checks aren’t just annoying to others, they’re 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.

Here’s how to tell if you’re 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 “put the phone away” more than once a day, you’ve 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, what’s the fix?

  • Acknowledge you have a problem. Psychologist and expert on technology at MIT, Dr. Sherry Turkle, says that’s important because once you’re 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, you’re less likely to mindlessly check your apps.
  • Pile your silenced phones on the table. Try this trick when you’re eating out with family or friends. Then, whoever checks their phone first, pays the bill.

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