How "Mindful Use" of Your Smartphone Can Make You More Productive

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Ken Chase, Freelance Writer

10 min read

How "Mindful Use" of Your Smartphone Can Make You More Productive

How "Mindful Use" of Your Smartphone Can Make You More Productive

Mobile technology has become nearly ubiquitous, with experts estimating that as many as 6.9 billion people around the world own and use smartphones. In the US alone, more than 85% of Americans use smartphones for work and in their daily lives. Most people seem to agree that this technology has been a net positive for the average person. Still, there are some who worry about the potential downside of smartphone overuse—which raises an interesting question: do you know how to be mindful of your phone use?

In this post, we will examine some of the main symptoms of smartphone dependency and how it can negatively impact your life. In addition, we will explore some helpful tips that you can use to learn how to be mindful of your phone use to ensure that your smartphone continues to be a positive tool.

Signs that you may be “addicted” to your smartphone

Studies in recent years have found that the average American checks their phone somewhere between 96 and 344 times a day—an average of once every four to ten minutes! While that preoccupation may not qualify as a technical addiction, it certainly indicates at least some form of dependency on smartphone technology. The signs of smartphone overuse can include:

  • Preoccupation with your phone. This typically involves constantly checking your phone even when you are doing other tasks

  • An inability to stop looking at your smartphone. Are you one of those people who almost subconsciously check their phone, even in social settings like a movie theater or a date? You know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t stop!

  • Taking steps to hide your phone use, like leaving a room to check your device

  • Seeking comfort in your phone during times of stress or boredom

  • Anxiety when you cannot access your smartphone. This can include being frustrated when there is no service, or during periods in which you have no way to check the device

The negative impact of smartphone overuse

Before we examine the negative impact of smartphone dependency, it is important to recognize that there is nothing inherently bad about this technology. In fact, the advent of smartphone technology has been one of the most powerful benefits technology has provided to the modern world. Thanks to its development and widespread use, billions of people around the world now have access to knowledge that they were previously unable to acquire.

Moreover, mobile technology has made it easier for everyone to buy and sell products and services, conduct banking transactions, and communicate with the world around them. In short, this technological marvel has helped to change lives and connect people in ways that are having a profound positive impact on the entire world. As with most things used in moderation, it is easy to see the benefits of smartphone use.

At the same time, however, excessive use of mobile phones can have many negative consequences:

  • Eye strain from excessive viewing of the phone screen

  • Car accidents from phone-related distracted driving

  • Fatigue and disrupted sleep, particularly for those who use their phones in the hours before they go to bed

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Relationship problems due to neglect of loved ones

  • Information overload

  • Lower productivity at work

  • Increased social isolation

  • Reduced attention span

  • Increased stress

  • Self-absorption, especially for people who may become overly focused on their social media activity

Research suggests positive benefits in learning how to be mindful of your phone use

As the concept of smartphone overuse has gained mainstream appeal, researchers have worked to understand more about this unique form of dependency. Naturally, they have also studied the effectiveness of efforts to reduce the negative consequences associated with smartphone dependency. One of those studies, San Diego University’s “Screen Time and Productivity: An Extension of Goal-setting Theory to Explain Optimum Smartphone Use”, looked at so-called “self-monitoring” behaviors to see how effective they actually are in mitigating those negative consequences.

The report cited other studies that outline the negative mental, psychological, physical, and professional consequences of smartphone overuse. The report’s authors then cited various mobile phone applications that have been developed by companies like Apple to help users self-monitor their smartphone activity.

As the authors note, self-monitoring is a vital component of self-regulation, because it enables people to track their behavior and its impact. Several decades of research suggest that this awareness of the benefits and downsides of behavior helps a person “better regulate their future behaviors in light of possible gains and consequences.”

The researchers involved in the study devised a methodology that had subjects use a cross-platform app capable of monitoring screen time to assist them as they monitored their device usage and set goals to control their behavior. According to the authors, the results showed that users who increased their monitoring efforts reported a perceived improvement in contentment and productive use of their devices.

As the study authors noted, there was not really a significant change in the amount of user screen time due to self-monitoring. However, it is important to note that this monitoring apparently helped those users to focus on productive screen time. The app showed them how to be mindful of their smartphone use.

Tips to help you learn mindful use of your smartphone

So, what can you do when you feel like you cannot control your own mobile phone activity? How do you train yourself to not use your phone? Are there ways that you can learn how to be mindful of your phone use? The good news is that there are steps you can take to take back control of your smartphone usage and learn how to be more productive with the time you spend on your phone. The following tips can help get you started on that path:

Install a usage-tracking app on your phone

If you want to mimic the researcher’s results, you may want to install one of the many apps that can help you track the amount of time you spend on your phone. You can even monitor productivity by seeing just how much time you spend with each application and which times of the day you are most active. Android apps like QualityTime also provide features that alert you when you are exceeding your allotted screen time for any app or even restrict access to apps that you find distracting.

Remove those social media apps

As you are learning how to be mindful of your phone use, you might discover that social media is your biggest distraction. If so, you will be in good company. In fact, social media apps can be one of the biggest impediments to productive screen time and can easily lead you to smartphone dependency. One way to eliminate that distraction is to simply delete your social media applications from your phone, and commit to only using those platforms when you are at your computer.

Of course, if you only have a mobile phone, that may not be an option. Fortunately, there is another step you can take to reduce social media’s distracting influence. Just turn off the automatic notifications for those applications so that your phone is not constantly notifying you whenever there is new activity on your preferred platforms.

Set clear goals for your activity

One key to successfully learning how to be mindful of your phone use is to focus on realistic goals. Think about what you want to do with your phone and then schedule specific times of the day to engage in those activities. For example, you can schedule your social media activity so that it doesn’t interfere with or distract from other important activities — like work or quality time with your loved ones. You can even consider rewarding yourself when you hit specific goals.

Don’t be afraid to turn off your phone

Some people seem to be leery of ever turning off their phone, except for the occasional restart. If you can overcome that fear, you might want to identify certain times of the day when you just disconnect completely from that technology. Some good times to shut down your phone might include quality time with your spouse, while you are driving your car, or during meetings at work. Alternatively, you can simply turn off the sound, turn on your screen lock, and shove the phone in your pocket or purse.

Set a schedule for email checks

Email can be a gateway to smartphone overuse, acting like a loss leader in a grocery store. It works like this: you get in the habit of constantly checking your email on your phone, but never quite manage to just check that program. Instead, you find yourself moving from your email app to some other application that you regularly use. As a result, you end up spending fifteen or twenty minutes staring at the screen instead of the thirty seconds you needed to check that email.

Mindful use of your smartphone might start with a commitment to only check your email once every half-hour or hour. During off-work hours, you might want to only make that check a couple of times a day. Remember, the goal is to make sure that your smartphone use is as productive as possible. If checking your email becomes an excuse to waste time on other apps, then address that issue as soon as possible.

Leave your phone out of the bedroom as much as possible

Research has shown that the light from digital screens can directly impact sleep when you are interacting with devices in the hours before bedtime. If at all possible, try to get in the habit of leaving your smartphone in another room. That can improve your sleep while also helping you to minimize phone usage.

Live in the moment

Mindfulness is all about living in the moment. It is about experiencing your environment, feelings, and senses–being completely present and aware of your environment and thoughts. All too often, technology like smartphones can become an ever-present impediment to that mindfulness, distracting you from the moment and clouding your senses. The next time you have a moment to yourself, try to focus on that experience instead of reaching for your smartphone to occupy your attention.


Learning how to be mindful of your phone use may sound like a daunting challenge, but the rewards can be tremendous. As you develop the habits needed to use your smartphone in a more productive way, you can develop a healthier relationship with this amazing technology and enjoy its many benefits without experiencing its potential negative consequences.

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Written by

Ken Chase, Freelance Writer

During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.

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