We’ve recently talked about strategies for curing your e-mail addiction to reduce the number of times a day you check your e-mail at work. With many of us in the western world having a day or two off from work this week, I thought it might be appropriate to address the addiction you might have with checking messages of all kinds when you’re not at work.
How many times have you been at dinner with a friend and she puts her phone on the table without any explanation? (I’m not talking about when someone is waiting for an emergency call, but rather when she simply doesn’t want to miss any social call that might happen to come her way.) How many times have you done it? How many times have you been talking with someone and he reaches into his pocket to check his phone to see if he has any messages? (Again, not when he is on call or expecting an important message, but because the person can’t go for five minutes without checking to see what may have filtered in.) Has this been you? Are you obsessed with checking your phone for voice mail, text, and/or e-mail messages?
An addiction to checking your voice mail, text and/or e-mail messages may be cluttering up your life. It also might be interfering with your pursuit of what matters most to you. Even if you’re not addicted, and you just wish these forms of communication took up less time in your life, try the following tips to get message checking under control:
- Determine why you are always checking your messages. What reasons are propelling you to check in all the time? Are these reasons tied to what matters most to you? Or, are they tied to insecurities or simply out of habit?
- If some of your reasons for constantly checking your messages correspond to what matters most to you — maybe your job or your family — can you find a way to make these checks less obtrusive? For instance, can you set a specific ring tone for calls and messages from your technical support team at work? Can you turn off your message notification sounds but leave on an alarm so that you check your messages only at specified intervals?
- If your reasons are tied to insecurities or out of habit, can you leave your phone in your car’s glove box when you go into an event so that you can have access to it if you need it, but that access is just annoying enough that you won’t do it unless there is a reason? Can you ask the person you’re out with to carry your phone for you while you’re together?
- Remember that people survived only a decade ago without constant access to voice mail, text, and e-mail messages. If someone needs to reach you in an emergency, there is almost always a way to do it. Portable communication devices are extremely convenient, but using them shouldn’t be cluttering up the remarkable life you desire or interfering with what matters most to you.
Good luck to anyone who is struggling with a message-checking addiction. I have to admit, the first three months I had my iPhone, I was definitely addicted. I got through it, though, by having my husband carry my phone when we were out together. Eventually, I broke the habit and the novelty of constantly checking for messages wore off.