I’m always on my phone. In fact, I’m on my phone now. Each night, I lay in bed tinkering on my phone until midnight or the wee hours of the morning. You might think I lay there playing Royal Match or scrolling Instagram, but actually I am usually writing and responding to emails, creating production budgets, casting shows, programming concerts… you know, working. But since I’m in bed, I don’t register it as working. I’ll often wake up the next morning and think to myself, “Man, I didn’t do any work yesterday,” when in fact, I worked a ton of hours that day, but it was all on my phone, either in bed or on the couch, and with the TV on in the background. Then I end up not only having over-worked my brain and eyes, but also feeling like a loser because I “didn’t do any work.”
The convenience of being able to shoot off emails, hop on virtual meetings, and work on projects during all hours of the day and night means there’s no real downtime. You might not even realize you’re working when you’re texting your boss or replying to emails from bed. It’s like work is this sneaky ninja that follows you everywhere you go. If you try to escape it by (gasp!) putting the phone down, sooner or later you realize that it’s suddenly in your hand again and you don’t even remember picking it back up.
Messing with Your Head
All this constant work on your phone can actually cause real mental health issues. The line between work and personal life gets blurred, and suddenly you’re stressed out and burned out without even understanding why. Your brain never gets a break because work is always right there, tapping you on the shoulder. It’s tough to relax and unwind when your phone keeps inconspicuously dragging you back into work mode.
There’s also a phenomenon called “notification fatigue.” Your phone is constantly buzzing and beeping, bombarding you with work triggers. Eventually, it starts feeling like an annoying background noise that never stops. This constant alertness can turn you into a ball of nerves, making it harder to fully disconnect and relax. Oftentimes, we’ll turn to anti-anxiety medication before we realize that it’s actually our addiction to the phone and our workaholic behaviors that cause our chronic anxiety.
The Physical Toll
It’s not just your brain that takes a hit—your body pays the price too. Staring at your phone for hours on end can give you headaches, strain your eyes, and mess with your sleep. The blue light from the screen disrupts your body’s internal clock, making it harder for you to get quality sleep. In addition, working on our phones keeps our brains engaged and makes it harder for us to mentally wind down and prepare for sleep.
How to Fight Back
Before you throw your phone into the river (or onto the freeway, for those of us in Los Angeles), there are some more reasonable tricks to break free from this sneaky work cycle:
- Set Hours: Create a work schedule and stick to it! Many smart phones have ways to limit screentime.
- Limit Notifications: Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature to give yourself a break from work pings during your off hours. If you want to allow notifications from only specific people (your family, for example), check your phone’s settings.
- Claim Your Territory: Create a dedicated workspace, so your brain knows when it’s time to engage and when it’s time to relax.
- Take Breaks: Schedule regular breaks to step away from your phone and do something fun or relaxing. Use your phone’s alarm to remind you that it’s break time. Pro Tip: Switching from working on one project to working on another doesn’t count as a break from that first project.
- Get Offline: Meet up with people face-to-face or do activities that don’t involve screens. Go for a walk, work in the garden, bake something, or just sit and look out the window. Pro Tip: Being in nature has been proven to relieve stress and improve mental health.
Smartphones are awesome. They make our lives so much easier in a lot of ways. But they can cause both mental and physical problems if we’re not careful with how (and how much) we use them. The key is finding that sweet spot between using your phone for work and knowing when to switch it off for some needed downtime. Don’t let your phone turn you into a passive workaholic – take charge, set some boundaries, and reclaim your leisure time. Your mental and physical well-being will thank you for it!