Last summer, researchers discovered an amazing statistic.

After profiling almost 100 smartphone users over a five day period, monitoring how often they touch, swipe, or interact with their phone, there were some surprising results.

It turns out this control group of users touched their phones 2,617 times on average per day. The more active users in the group touched their phones a whopping 5,427 times per day. If you do the math, that's about one million touches per year, or two million for the heavy users. We use Facebook the most and play a lot of games.

That's right.

We're totally obsessed.

We need to stop.

The survey also found that the total time spent interacting with a phone for an average user per day was around 145 minutes. That's appalling, because it means we use our phones almost two and a half hours each day.

These tiny gadgets have invaded our work day like nothing else.

The question is: What do we do about it?

If you're wondering whether looking, swiping, and pressing icons on the screen that many times is killing your productivity, you are absolutely correct. Each interaction involves activating the screen, finding the information you need, selecting options, and putting the phone away. This doesn't account for the time you spend charging the phone, looking for it, making sure it is in your laptop bag, and all of the other fussing we do.

Curiously, while we tend to browse online mostly in the morning, we must be pushing away from the keyboard more often on the afternoon. The study found that we mostly use our phones in the afternoon and continue on through the evening and into the late hours.

I missed this stat from last summer, but I'm guessing the problem is getting a lot worse, judging from how often people keep tapping away.

At CES 2017 this year, it became more than a mass obsession. In meetings, several people would suddenly switch to their phones at every opportunity and stop talking--for example, when the conversation turned to a subject they didn't like. In one meeting, even the person leading the meeting took a few minutes to check his phone.

I'm raising my hand right now. I have this issue. I'm not someone who is going to point out a problem everyone else has, but I do have some ideas on how we can all stop.

For one, let's figure out how to make phones more useful and efficient. I'm a big fan of AI and chatbots because they can do a lot of the work for us. I've now booked every business trip with a chatbot over the past six months, and it takes a lot of the busy work out of the equation. The chatbot does the searching and the monitoring. It eventually feeds me in the info I need. I can focus on more important things. You almost feel guilty. I need to check my phone more! Yet, in most cases, I gave the bot my flight and hotel dates, my price range, and my preferences. Then, it booked the trip.

Another idea is to talk to bots like Amazon Alexa more. It's more efficient. Don't use your phone to check the weather, just ask Alexa. Don't bother ordering products with an app, ask Alexa. It's faster and easier, and you can keep on working. Bots can keep track of our schedule, remind us about meetings, and--someday soon, hopefully--even fill in for us at a meeting so we can do other things and keep working.

In terms of texting constantly, many of our micro-interactions also kill productivity. I've started setting aside time to text a couple of times per day. If there's an important matter, I've told friends and family to call me instead. I know, it's old school.

The real answer, though, has to do with science.

Why do we check our phones and email constantly? We're hoping for a slight boost of dopamine--we hope there is some good news and not just another reminder from the boss to order paper for the printer. By far, most of those 2.617 interactions are not necessary and do not give us that dopamine boost. They are boring and routine. We need to keep the phone stowed, especially during important meetings.

Do you agree that we're obsessed? What's your solution?

Drop me a note and let me know.

Just don't do it by phone.

Published on: Jan 13, 2017