Making these seven simple changes to your daily phone habits will help you work more efficiently and feel less anchored to your mobile devices.

As the fast-paced real estate business becomes more mobile, your smartphone and other devices can be your best friends—but they can also fill your day with interruptions. You can be bombarded with emails, text messages, phone calls, and social media notifications. Digital distractions can get in the way of being effective at your job and living your life to its fullest.

“Technology is making us connect more often within shorter amounts of time,” says Larry Rosen, professor emeritus and research consultant at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and co-author of The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World (The MIT Press, 2016). Technology has set an expectation for an immediate response, says Rosen, a situation that can become unrealistic and unhealthy.

If constant communication is making you feel overwhelmed or disorganized, here are seven tips for avoiding digital distractions without sacrificing your sales or your reputation.

Schedule time to check emails and texts. If you feel anxious when you can’t check messages on your phone or computer, allow yourself five minutes every hour to catch up on email, texts, and social media messages. Communicate this schedule to your clients or team so they know how often to expect to hear from you.

Curb cell phone compulsion. You eat with it, sleep with it, and bring it to the bathroom. A smartphone provides constant stimulation, says Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. The whole process has the same effect on the mind as a slot machine, he says. You never know what you will get or how good it will be, plus you don’t know when that stimulation will come. He says people look at their phone 300 times a day on average. Taking small steps to alleviate the compulsion can go a long way to relaxing your mind. Try eating a meal without your phone or taking a walk and leaving your phone at home.

Don’t use a smartphone as an alarm clock. Do not sleep with your phone under your pillow or next to you on the nightstand. “We create the illusion that we have to have it right next to us all the time. Buy an alarm clock and leave the phone in another room,” says Greenfield.

Don’t keep your phone near you in the car. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed due to distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That accounts for 10 percent of all fatal crashes and marks an increase from 3,179 deaths in 2014. Put your phone in the back seat or leave it in your purse, Greenfield says. Turn it off, and never reach for it while driving. Don’t rely on Bluetooth technology as an alternative: 75 percent of users end up operating other features on their phone while driving, he adds. State laws vary on whether you can hold your phone to talk while driving, but Greenfield conducted a study with AT&T that found people do everything on their phone while driving, including texting, emailing, searching on Google, and taking videos and photos.

Turn notifications off. “Notifications are what stimulates that anticipatory response, which causes the stress hormone to elevate,” Greenfield says. As long as the notifications are on, you will be anchored to the phone or your computer. Go into your computer, phone, or application settings to make notification adjustments.

Remove or restrict distracting apps. Do you really need all those apps on your phone? Remove certain apps that are distracting you. If you don’t want to take them off your phone, try moving them to the second or third page of your app screen so they aren’t as noticeable, Rosen suggests. It makes you have to work harder to get to them.

End the rudeness at social gatherings. If you’re having dinner with clients, family, or fiends, don’t put your phone on the table in front of you; it becomes priority over the person you’re engaging with. Limit yourself to two minutes in the middle of the evening to check your phone. Aside from that, don’t let it disturb your night, Rosen says.


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