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A Timeless Tip for Better Presence

According to a 2015 study performed by Nottingham Trent University, 18- to 33-year-olds in England look at their phones an average of 85 times per day, or about one-third of their waking time.

The study asked participants to guess how often they looked at their phones, and then each participant’s phone had an app installed that tracked actual usage for two weeks. On the whole, people looked at their phones twice as often as they thought. More than half of those looks were for less than 30 seconds (“How often do YOU check your phone?”).

We don’t need these statistics to tell us what we already know: we are an easily distractible people.

Even in one-to-one conversations in our most intimate relationships, a majority of us have likely been prone to that quick glance at a screen to check the time, check our email, or check a score.

But when we do things like that, we’re sending not-so-subtle messages to the person we’re supposed to “be present” with: you’re boring me, or you’re not quite that important to me, or I don’t like what you’re telling me so I’m going to check out.

An easy way to know whether you’re truly being present with another person is to consider how much unnoticed time passes during a conversation. Likely, your most meaningful conversations have lasted a long time, but you failed to notice the passage of time because of the connection you were making with the other person. Checking your phone seemed like a very unimportant choice in comparison to the real-world connection you made.

The next time you’re tempted to glance at your phone when talking with someone else, make a willful decision to refuse the pull. Forget about the time and focus on the person in front of you. Even if your phone chirps, use that as a reminder to reset your focus on the other person.

Or better yet, just turn it off.

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