Here’s why you don’t feel like you have any free time (and it’s your phone’s fault)

Most of us look at our smartphones for around five hours per day – checking the gadgets hundreds of times every day (and sometimes during the night).

But a new TED talk by NYU psychologist Adam Alter has highlighted an alarming side effect – we no longer have ‘free time’.

In a talk at the 2017 TED conference, Alter compared graphs from 2007, 2015, and 2017 showing how people spend an average work day – based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the app Moment.

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Apart from sleep and work – which take up roughly two-thirds of each day – our time is divided into leisure time and ‘survival’ activities such as bathing and eating, IFL Science reports.

But the graph highlights how much of that precious ‘free’ time is now taken up by looking at screens – with the red portion showing screen time.

Alter says, ‘That’s where your humanity lives, and right now it’s in a very small box.’

Around 11% of people in Western countries are thought to suffer from some form of technology addiction, according to Professor Ofir Turel of California State University, Fullerton.

But what should you do if you find yourself unable to stay away from your phone – and addicted to the constant stream of ‘pings’ telling you something has happened?

There are ways to cut down, according to Larry Rosen a psychology professor at California State University, .

Rosen says that constant smartphone alerts mean that people are trained to look at their phones not only when they make noises – but also when they don’t.

Rosen says, ‘Their heart rates increase. Their skin tingles. They grow increasingly antsy with every minute they don’t look at the screen.

Rosen suggests that cutting down is the key – and says that putting yourself on a schedule can work.

Rosen suggests allowing yourself to check your phone for a few minutes, on the hour.

He also suggests boosting your attention span gradually, using an attention span test with your phone’s timer.

Set the timer for 15 minutes, and ONLY check your phone once the timer goes off.

Rosen says, ‘Keep doing that until you get to a point where your alarm goes off and you say, ‘Wait, I want to finish what I’m doing.’

‘Then you know you can focus for 15 minutes. The more invested you are in these apps, the more you’ll struggle. It may be that the best you can get is 15 minutes of attention, and that’s a sad thing to say about our attention spans.’