You might as well face it, you’re addicted to your phone. How to switch off from the freelance life.

Much of London’s tube is underground. As you travel from north, east, south or west London into central, or vice versa – you feel something rise from the carriage. It’s the anxiety of the passengers. The passengers who have lost their phone signal as the train goes deep into London’s Victorian tunnels.

Among all the mice and rats scavenging for food in the train tunnels, there is scavenging of a different kind, among humans – scavenging around for a signal.

On your marks, get set…

It’s as if the commuters are poised to pounce at the starting pistol of a race. You can feel everyone getting ready as the train approaches an open-air station. The passengers are frantically pulling down on their screens with their thumbs to refresh. Their thumb hasn’t left their phone screen the whole time. The train is out in the fresh air once more; their anxiety has been lifted.

Is the last thing you do at night check your phone? Is the first thing you do in the morning check your phone? Do you find yourself on your phone while walking, driving and eating, or when you should be working?

If the answers to these questions are “yes”, then maybe it’s time to admit that your phone controls your life, which makes it difficult to switch off from the freelance experience. Next time someone 45 years old plus tells you to put your phone away in the company of friends, maybe you should listen to them.

You may have never considered yourself to have an addictive personality before. You may seldom gamble, have never been a big drinker, and have steered clear of nicotine. You may never have had a sex addiction à la Michael Douglas due to not having his revolving door of sexual partners.

But smartphone addiction is real. Many of us haven’t the willpower to ignore our phones when it buzzes and pings; many of us feel the need to reach for them continually. Addiction is something that many of us experience at some point during our lives, without even knowing it. It’s not something we can all relate too, or even admit – we often see addiction as something other people have and look down on them for being losers, and weak.

Of course you’re not addicted to your phone. Addiction? Me? No way. The members of Black Sabbath, Michael Barrymore and David Hasselhoff, maybe. But not me. That time you nearly got hit by a bus because you were ‘liking’ an old school teacher’s photo of her new shower curtain was a one-off. That time you checked a Facebook notification as the pall-bearers were escorting a coffin pass you? Had to be checked. Just bad timing.

We usually think of addiction as a compulsive need to use a substance (such as drugs) or do something (such as gamble). It’s entirely possible that we can be addicted to something internal rather than external – such as our emotions – and in turn our phones – which we derive these emotions from.

Smartphone manufacturers have developed their devices to release endorphins and dopamine, which drive addiction. The unpredictability of what is coming next makes apps and social media addictive – to the extent that you’re pulling down on your screen in anticipation of what is waiting for you.

Emotions work in the same receptors in the brain as alcohol or drugs. If certain emotional needs aren’t met, then we set up situations to get our addiction satisfied e.g. checking in at the airport before a holiday, posting those hotdog legs around the pool or announcing winning a new contract on LinkedIn – all to see how many people like, love and comment.

As a freelancer, it can be hard to switch off – especially in the early days of setting up your business when you’re continually looking to win work. For a business owner trying to make the most out of each day, the time staring at a phone is valuable time that has been lost. But it’s vital to remove technology from your life for extended periods of times. So how do you stop yourself from falling into the trap of idly scrolling, when you could be doing something more enjoyable or productive?

 

  • Say no to notifications. It’s essential to have a work shift and stick to it. Delete social media, professional networking and email apps when you’re not working so that you won’t get notifications. When it’s time to work again, it only takes a matter of seconds to reinstall them.

 

  • Get a work phone that’s separate from your personal phone – switch it off when you’re not supposed to be working.

 

  • Change where you charge it – and make sure it’s not your bedroom. A phone messes with your sleep.

 

  • Get a proper alarm clock. Otherwise, your phone is the first thing you will touch in the morning.

 

  • Try turning on your phone’s grayscale screen setting – it’s much less desirable to look.

 

  • If you still can’t beat your phone addiction, then try replacing your smartphone with a minimalist phone. You can still get phones without internet, believe it or not.There is probably an old Nokia in the drawer where you keep stuff that you’re never going to use. Abandoned in 1999; still has a charge; ready for a good old game of snake.

 

Without admitting to addiction, transformation can’t take place – it’s the first step to fixing it. Set boundaries and review your relationship with your phone. It’s time to reclaim your spot in the real world. Going to the toilet without your phone is possible. Who knew?