Maybe you read that study that showed constantly checking your phone is slowly strangling your relationships (or the follow-up research that confirmed this).
Maybe you were horrified by the finding that, on average, we waste five hours a day on our phones.
Possibly it was reading up on the link between "technostress" and professional burnout that did it.
Or perhaps it was the growing parade of evidence that night-time screen use negatively impacts your sleep -- as well as your productivity the next day -- that convinced you.
But whatever your reasons, you've determined you need to get your addiction to constantly checking email and social media under control. Great, now what do you do? If you're looking for a detailed and actionable plan to rein in your impulses and ensure you control your screen and your screen doesn't control you, then you could do a lot worse that a recent Psychology Today article from Christine Carter.
If you're serious about beating your addiction, it's well worth a read in full, but here's a basic outline of her five-step plan for conquering even the worst email addiction.
1. Focus on what you'll do instead
If, like the average Joe, email is currently eating up hours of your day, then kicking the habit will free up oodles of time. What do you intend to do with it? Decide now to boost your commitment and motivation, suggests Carter.
"If you are going to spend less time monitoring your email (and social media feeds, and anything else that is constantly nagging you for attention), what would be more productive or joyful for you?" she asks. Answer this question and then add whatever you decide -- be it focused work, more reading, or more time with your family -- to your calendar.
2. Choose times to check
"Schedule two or three specific times to check your email and messages during the day," says Carter. "Here is the key: Block off enough time to get all the way to the bottom of your inbox in one way or another. If a particular email is going to take more than five minutes to read and respond to, I put it in a folder ('to do this week') and add whatever it entails to my task list. If you need X hours a day to deal with your email, make sure you've scheduled X hours daily."
3. Turn off your alerts
This one is going to be hard for some folks, but Carter insists silencing all those pings and chimes is necessary.
"Turn off all notifications on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Vibrate counts; turn it off. Now do this for your text messages and all of your social media feeds. Breathe," she instructs anxious screen fiends. (Struggling with your finger over that 'silent' button? Maybe it'll help to know that a no notifications policy is one of the most common ways the super successful approach their email.)
4. "Hide the bowl of candy"
"If you were trying to eat less candy, would you carry a bowl of it around with you? Would you put it on your nightstand and reach into it first thing in the morning? And then carry it with you to the bathroom? And then set it next to you while you try to eat a healthy breakfast? And then put it on your dashboard? I didn't think so," writes Carter. So why torture yourself by having your phone in your line of sight all day?
You might need to take somewhat extreme measures -- such as actually finding your old alarm clock -- to make putting your phone away practical.
5. Pay attention to your feelings.
You're not just trying to kick your email addiction to demonstrate your determination. You're trying to make your life better. Is checking your gadgets less making your life better?
Pay attention to your emotions as you quit and you're less likely to falter, Carter claims, both because you won't be steam rolled by the bad moments, and because you'll be buoyed by the good ones.
"Notice the difficult bits with curiosity (and maybe humor). How do you feel as you detox from constant checking? How are people reacting now that you don't respond to everything instantly? Notice also the moments of ease and focus. Your tension levels will likely drop, and you'll probably be less stressed. How does this feel in your body? Really see the people around you, now that you are looking up from your phone. Smile," she concludes.
Do you control your screens or do your screens control you?