04 Apr Do You Get Anxious When Your Phone Blinks, Beeps, or Buzzes?

Not long ago, I was due for a phone upgrade and was quite excited about it. When the day arrived, Rachel reminded me, “D, we’re upgrading phones tonight, so I’ll need your phone for a few hours.” After picking up the girls from school, she stopped by my office to grab my cell phone. Initially, it seemed like no big deal. Within a few minutes, however, I felt like I had phone separation anxiety. I was worried that I would miss a call, was concerned that I couldn’t check my texts, and was nervous that my staff might be trying to get a hold of me. The scariest part… I even heard phantom beeps and buzzes. According to a Georgia Tech study, 90% of us have experienced the phantom issues to some extent, mistaking “tiny muscle spasms” for an incoming text.

Do You Get Antsy?

Think about a time when you didn’t have your phone with you. How did you feel? Have you ever freaked out when you realized that it was on silent? According to Larry Rosen, author of The Distracted Mind, when a cell phone, laptop, or smartwatch makes a noise, it produces mental and physical reactions in people. Their heart rates increase and their skin tingles. They grow increasingly antsy with every minute they don’t look at the screen. We’ve trained ourselves, almost like Pavlov’s dogs, to figuratively salivate over what that vibration might mean. If you don’t address the vibrating phone or the beeping text, the signals in your brain that cause anxiety are going to continue to dominate, and you’re going to continue feeling uncomfortable until you take care of them.

Is Your Phone Becoming an Extension of You?

Phone separation anxiety, or nomophobia (short for no-mobile-phone phobia), has little to do with being unable to make or receive phone calls. Scientists say it’s because smartphones are so advanced and personal to us that they’ve actually become an extension of ourselves. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten to the point in society where many of us feel more naked without our phones than we do without our clothes on.

What Are You Willing to Try?

When I turned on my new phone, it prompted me to decide what notifications I wanted to receive. Of course, the default setting was that they were on for every single one of my 108 apps. In the moment, I made the decision to try something new. No, I didn’t decide to try a short-term digital detox. Instead, I turned off all of my notifications, including text message alerts. How about you? Because we are all unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You might be a carpenter, lawyer, nurse, electrician, doctor, manager, or administrator. What could you try that might help you minimize phone separation anxiety?

Do You Touch Your Phone 1-2 Million Times per Year?

It’s important to note that I didn’t just turn off all notifications. I mean, I really, really, turned them off, including text message alerts. Why? Because I check and swipe my phone enough…  as do many others. According to Dscout, average users touch their phones 2,641 times per day while high users touch their phones a massive 5,427 times per day. If you do the math, that’s about one to two million touches per person per year.

At this rate, texting will be the next olympic sport, batteries will need a lives of 700%, and humans will be wearing pet cones to keep us from constantly looking at our phones. As a high user, I’m embarrassed to admit that I touch my phone two million times per year. For that very reason, I don’t need 108 notifications. What notifications do you actually need, rather than want?

What Is Your Keystone Habit?

Right now, the only time that my phone buzzes or makes a noise is when I actually get a phone call (remember those?) or when my alarm goes off to wake me up in the morning. Turning off text message notifications is a keystone habit because it has positively impacted a number of my other habits, too. What are some of my results? I stopped looking at my phone in the car, I’m less distracted when I read and write, I’m more present with my staff, and I only check my social media platforms two to three times per day. What would your results be?

ACTION: It’s been said that it takes 21 days to break a habit. Today, forget about 21 days and think about 21 hours. Today, turn off ALL of your phone notifications… INCLUDING TEXTS. Tomorrow, evaluate what you liked and what you didn’t like about fewer distractions. When you are ready, make the necessary changes that will help you to minimize phone separation anxiety.

Click to Tweet: It’s been said that it takes 21 days to break a habit. Today, forget about 21 days and think about 21 hours. Today, turn off ALL of your phone notifications… INCLUDING TEXTS. Tomorrow, evaluate what you liked and what you didn’t like about fewer distractions. #Focus

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