The average American checks their phone 46 times per day-and more often if they're younger.

These "quick checks" add up. On average, 23 minutes pass before you're able to refocus after an interruption like this. If you're not mindful about it, checking your phone and then attempting to refocus on work will consume your entire day. There simply aren't enough minutes left to get anything done.

Unless you're getting paid to check your phone, this pinball effect is a problem. If you're unable to make any significant progress on your actual work-whether you work for someone else or work for yourself-you're robbing yourself of the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing something.

What can you do about it?

Check your phone less.

Just kidding. I know that's a non-starter.

Don't check your phone throughout the day. What if you consolidated those "quick checks" into a few focused moments instead of evenly spreading them out? Reserving phone-free periods of time-ideally 2 to 3 hours-will enable you to concentrate and do deep work. Between these blocks of focused work time, dedicate 20 minutes or so to checking your phone, responding to messages and scrolling through your social feeds.

If daily blocks of focused work time aren't realistic, consider setting time aside 3 to 4 days per week.

Once you decide on a time block, here are some ways to honor that commitment to yourself and your best work.

  • Notify the people who might contact you during those times. This might be a boss, partner, or coworker. Tell them that if they like you at all or care even a smidge about your happiness and success at work, to leave you alone.
  • Start small. Anticipate a little discomfort going without your phone for a while.
  • Ask a friend or coworker to hold your phone for you. Lock it first or risk coming back to several (hilarious but unauthorized) social media updates. Maybe it's just my friends who'd do that.
  • Intentionally work in a place with no signal. Coverage is getting better all the time which is both good and bad. While it's getting harder to find dead zones, they still exist. The deserted and well-lit lobby in my doctor's office is one.

Unless you set aside time blocks to focus on work, you're destined to continue to bounce from task to task through your day and struggle to make any substantive progress on those that matter most. Time blocks are an effective way to eliminate distractions and make huge leaps forward. Your phone will appreciate the break too.

I share a bit more on this topic in this short video.

Published on: Feb 9, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.