Obsessed with Your Smartphone? 5 Steps to Take Back Your Brain

Last Updated: Jun 13, 2014
Smartphones are incredible productivity tools when they aren’t being overused, but the soft ding of alerts from social media, emails and game updates can keep you from concentrating on the real world going on around you. Here are five things you can do to overcome smartphone obsession.

We love our smartphones. There’s no denying it. In fact, we love them so much that we never want to put them down. Most of us constantly check for text messages, emails, and the latest Tweets and Facebook updates at all hours of the day, whether we’re in a meeting, at lunch with a friend, or just at home in front of the TV. Of course, it’s easy to justify our smartphone love. They help us get more done. They allow us to stay plugged into what’s going on at the office. They help us organize our schedules, remind us when to pick up our dry cleaning, and manage our growing social networks.

But, our smartphone obsession comes with a definite downside. Our smartphones may be making us less rather than more smart and productive.

Being overly tapped into what’s happening on our smartphones isn’t a good thing.

It prevents us from making the most of a networking event because we’re texting and emailing the whole time. We suffer burn out from always being plugged into work, and as a result, our overall productivity suffers. Our relationship-building skills suffer because we aren’t used to communicating with people face to face. And in some respects, we stop thinking. For example, if your smartphone died, would you know when your next meeting was, what time your flight was leaving, who’s supposed to pick up the kids from school today? I know plenty of people who wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, when used responsibly smartphones can be great tools. But I think many of us would admit to allowing them to take over our lives. As a result we miss out on the opportunities that are happening right in front of us. And it shouldn’t be that way.

Here, I offer 5 easy steps to take back your life from your smartphone, recover your common sense and rediscover what it means to be productive:

Turn off cyberspace. There’s no greater blow to productivity than breaking your concentration to reply to an email or text as soon as it hits your smartphone. Remember, no award will be handed out at the end of the day for the person who responded the fastest. If you’re doing nothing but responding to emails and texts, you’re bouncing around like a pinball. It’s also important to keep in mind that the purpose of email and texts is not to generate more email and texts. Unless a response is necessary in order for the sender to move ahead on a task or project, it’s okay to let them have the last word. The more you’re connected to your smartphone the less you’re connected to yourself and the important task at hand.

Tame the social media beast. Smartphone apps make it fun and easier than ever to read our friends’ status updates and to see the photos they’ve posted on Facebook. It makes us feel good when they “like” something we’ve posted or when we’re tagged in one of their photos. That’s one reason social media is so addicting – it’s like experiencing human hugs all day long. Now that you understand why you like it, it’s time to tame the beast and take back your time.

Likewise, Twitter can quickly move from a social communication to an obsessive compulsive disorder. You can get caught up following every trending hashtag, but do you really need to know, or care about, most of the things you read on Twitter? Yes, there is some social utility to it but like we saw during the Boston Marathon Bomber Manhunt it quickly turns into a lot of people feeling involved when they’re really contributing more noise than signal. Facebook and Twitter won’t be evaluating your performance at year’s end and probably can’t qualify you for a pay raise either.

SEE ALSO: Social Media Overload: Does your small business need to be on every network?

Turn off the lights and your phone. More and more of us are using our smartphones as watches and alarm clocks, keeping it plugged in to recharge on the bedside overnight. So long as your phone is plugged in, so are you. Take a break from your phone. If it’s by the bed you’ll get those late night calls, tweets and texts that interfere with precious sleep.

Plus, the easier you can reach your phone the more likely it becomes that you’ll check email in the middle of the night and find something that will really disturb your sleep. Can you really get the REM cycles your body requires if you’re still connected? Unless there’s a likelihood of an emergency, we have three rules in our house that we absolutely follow – the first is no smartphones in the bedroom. If someone dies overnight they’ll be just as dead in the morning and we’ll be rested and ready to deal with it.

Related: Control Smart Phone Use to Increase Productivity

Crunch kale instead of candy. Games are fun but they have their place and that’s not at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table. Words with Friends can wait until you’ve had words and meals with family. Our second rule bans smartphones from the table whether we’re at home or in a restaurant with friends.

Checking your texts and email during a meal is the social equivalent of picking your nose in public or saying to your BFF “this conversation is really interesting but excuse me while I score three more points…” Crunch all the candy you want, but let’s face it, clicking your mouse to get points to build a hen house for your farm or sending someone virtual hugs, flowers, or groceries seems like a crazy waste of time.

There’s no room in the restroom for a phone call. We all know that smartphones carry more germs than a toilet seat – so why contaminate your bathroom with your phone? As a nurse, I can confidently tell you that the last place you want to be sitting and using your smartphone is a toilet seat and I don’t care how many paper liners you’ve stacked up on that seat. Not to mention – you’re sharing your business with total strangers.

Though it may seem painful at first, making these changes to your smartphone habits won’t kill you. In fact, I think you’ll find that when you use your smartphone just a little bit less, you’ll get way more out of it. It can actually become the productivity tool you want it to be instead of a drain on your time and social skills.

Inc. Top 10 Entrepreneur Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD is the author of The New York Times Bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. In 1982 Vickie pioneered the field of legal nurse consulting for registered nurses.

Vickie has appeared on national TV and radio as an expert on entrepreneurship, career advancement and legal nurse consulting. Vickie’s television appearances include ABC, CBS, FOX & Friends, NBC, Bloomberg TV and many others. She was also a contributor to the National Public Radio program, This I Believe®.


Consulting 101: Working Around an Unreasonable Deadline

Consulting 101: Working Around an Unreasonable Deadline

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2016
Client expectations don’t always meet up with reality in the consulting business. So what do you do when a client expects the project you were hired for to be finished much sooner than is possible? Here are 4 steps for handling an unrealistic deadline.

We have all been handed tasks or projects or consulting requests with deadlines that just didn’t seem possible. It’s frustrating painful, but it’s how quick we can think, what steps we set in motion to try to remedy the mess we’ve been handed of found ourselves in, and how we chose to move forward that ends up really defining how the engagement is going to go, and probably whether we will ever do business with this client again.

One software customization and implementation project I took on a few years ago had a 180 day go live date. I immediately stated that I didn’t believe that was possible. My team – after some detailed analysis – fully agreed. But the customer – one of the big players in aviation – had already committed to a firm rollout date that was 6 months out through several highly visible press releases to major aviation sites and publications. So, based on that information having been shared internationally, there wasn’t much that could be changed – the implementation date wasn’t really movable.

Consulting 101 Series:

Given a situation like or similar to the one I laid out above, what do you do? For starters, you may want to have a nice long conversation with the account manager or sales guy who closed the deal and for some crazy reason gave the customer the idea that 180 days was a possible deadline to meet (so hopefully it will never happen again). But THEN what do you do?

Here’s what I did and, in general, the steps I took:

Reset customer expectations. First, if you suspect there may be a problem with the deadline, address that with the project client as soon as you possibly can. You don’t have to say “We absolutely can’t meet that deadline,” but it’s ok to give them a heads-up that you forsee their set-in-stone deadline as a potential problem.

Figure out what can be moved to “next phase.” This should always be your next step in discussions with the client. Usually, on just about any engagement, there are the immediate “must haves” and the secondary “nice to haves.” Negotiate to move enough of those “nice to haves” out to a later phase so that the “must have” functionality can be ready within the required or promised window on the project schedule. The key is to try not to force your client into paying more to get what they need by the deadline. They should still get all of the functionality they were promised for the same price if at all possible – even if it takes two projects to get there.

Work through the holidays and add staff. Finally, do whatever it takes to get it done – if at all possible – by the deadline originally promised. For me – on the aviation project – it meant taking my team to Phoenix over Christmas for two weeks to speed up the final work and roll through user acceptance testing and be ready on time for go-live. It wasn’t a memorable holiday in the good sense, but we made it. And at least to some degree, I think the customer appreciated it.


It’s never fun being faced with something you simply believe can not be accomplished. At least not without some major restructuring and negotiation, possibly some lost revenue or free work, or a frustrated customer who may not want to do business with you again. You just have to keep the lines of communication flowing, be upfront and honest about your concerns and negotiate with the client’s satisfaction in mind. It’s not a time to be selfish. Think of it more as a time of giving, than taking away. 

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author of A Real World Project Manager’s Guide to the Successful Project. He has over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at www.bradegeland.com.