We’re all in the habit of checking our smartphones, even when no prompt has notified us that there’s something new to check. But aside from “a lot”, do you have any idea how many times a day you interact with your mobile device?

In a desire to find out – and apply real numbers to our cell phone addiction – research firm Dscout rigged almost one hundred Android phones with a sensor that would accurately detect tactile interaction. These doctored phones were then handed out to a demographically diverse sample of users to quantify how often they touched their phones on a daily basis. Over the course of four days, they discovered the average user tapped, swiped or clicked a staggering 2,617 times a day! For heavy users, that frequency of daily interactions topped 5,000 times.

The study went on to conclude that users were mostly unaware how habitual their phone checking was, with close to two thirds substantially underestimating the interaction tally. What might be more shocking is that 11% of the study’s users could be found checking their phones at 3 AM, and “87% of participants checked their phones at least once between midnight and 5am.” 

While these findings are a bit shocking, they don’t contradict other recent studies, like the one conducted by Baylor University in Texas which revealed all this phone interaction is not only impeding productivity it’s also adversely affecting the quality of our personal relationships.   

Fortunately, people are catching on to the wider health implications of the epidemic of phone addiction, even business owners and entrepreneurs whose livelihood typically depends on a state of non-stop connectivity. We all recognize it’s gotten out of hand, but many aren’t sure how to strike a new balance between technology and authentic human interaction.

Here are some simple changes you can make to your routine that will help you break free from your dependence on your mobile device:

Take the 2-Hour Challenge:

Begin the exercise of de-teching with small, manageable steps. Pledge to not check your cell phone for a set length of time: two hours. Associate that window of time with an activity or time of day, for instance, after 8 pm, whenever on a date, during meal times with family, before entering the office, etc.

Physically Place Your Phone Out of Reach:

Make the conscious effort to put down the phone well out of reach, so that it takes physical effort to check it.  Don’t keep it at your side or in your pocket. You’ll not only notice how often you feel compelled to check your phone, you’ll also find yourself asking if you really need to check it at that particular moment.

Practice In-Person Face-to-Face Communications

In the office, consider speaking directly to your employees, rather than texting, emailing them or employing Facetime. Make it a practice to stop by a co-worker’s office to discuss projects, use lunch-time as an opportunity to set up in-person meetings, and host bull-pen gatherings with your teams when it’s time to make announcements – rather than relying on the company’s internet or email blast features.

Establish De-tech Strategies for your Workstation:

When focusing on a project, turn off your email’s pop-up and push notifications and give the task your undivided attention. Schedule a specific time during the day that you’ll devote to answering emails, the half-hour before lunch for instance, rather than dealing with them one-by-one as they appear in your in-box. Consider grabbing a pen and handwrite your notes – or compose a thank you letter on paper rather than dashing off an email. 

Lead By Example:

Establish a policy in which you only respond to your emails during 9-5 work hours.  When emails come at other times of the day, create an auto-response that encourages the emails’ authors to call you if it’s important, or kindly wait until the following day for your answer. Let others at work know about your new policy.

Adopt Mindfulness:

With all your new-found free time, focus on making connections with yourself or others around you, giving them (or yourself) your complete attention and paying attention to how that makes you feel.