Is Your Smartphone Making Life Worse

I love my iPhone and my iPad. I use them to listen to music, play games, text with my friends and family – in fact, I can freely admit that I will choose to text someone rather than make a phone call. It's quick, it’s easy, and it doesn't distract me from something else. Recently, I realized that I checked my phone before I walked out to go down to my car and once I got into the drivers' seat, I checked it again.

Why? Did I really think I was going to miss something that was that important in a time span of three minutes? No, I didn't, but I’m addicted to checking my phone.

Recent studies suggest that the average smartphone user checks their phone 150 times a day.

We use these kinds of devices for everything. We keep our lives organized in the calendar applications, read all of our books on screens, and we share messages and videos with friends and family right from the palms of our hands. It's great to live in an age where being able to talk to my brother while he was deployed was as simple as an internet connection, but our reliance on technology is not all fun and games.

Smartphones have recently been proven to cause insomnia. Harvard researchers published results on how our dependency on technology has crept to the bedroom and is now throwing off our body's "light-dark cycle", which is spurning an increase in insomnia. Head researcher, Charles A. Czeisler, reports that as we expose ourselves to more artificial lights we "dramatically changed the timing of our endogenous circadian rhythms."

Overexposure to devices that think for us have caused an interesting phenomenon dubbed by Psychology Today as "The Google Effect". Research from a 2011 study found that people are encouraged to think less as we have more access to search engines right in our hands. Have you ever watched a movie and thought "hey I know that guy" and then turned to Google to type in a long and vague question to see what pops up, rather than trying to recall his face in your memory bank? That is the Google Effect.

Your brain at rest can actually be one of your most creative and productive times. Research in the early 1990s showed that your brain never really stops, even when your body is at rest. A resting state allows your brain to entertain ideas that seem random in nature. In contrast, when you are focused on a detailed activity, your brain devotes most of its energy to the task at hand. I think that being constantly tired to a device limits the ability of our brains (at least my brain) to allow those random thoughts and ideas to flow.

It’s not just your brain and creativity that can suffer from overuse of your smartphone. An Auckland chiropractor reports a rise in cases of cervical kyphosis. The curvature of your spine at the neck is developed as baby during "tummy time" when you practice holding your head up. Cervical kyphosis is the straitening of the vertebrae at the base of your neck, and many medical professionals are cautioning cell phone users to the dangers of looking down all of the time.

That's not to say that smartphones don't do a lot of good for us and social networks. Studies have been conducted after disasters (like tornadoes) that give credit to social networks and text messages for helping to get messages to those in the paths of dangerous weather to seek shelter.

The development of applications for your phone range from games to technology that allows you to save money – like with the Nest learning thermostat or can even keep your medical information on hand in the event of something happening to you. Applications allow you to store your current medications, dosages, and even if you have an allergies. In the event of an emergency, EMTs or doctors can have quick access to your medical history so that they can best attend to you when you arrive at the emergency room.

Smartphones can enrich our lives but I think it's always important to remember that too much of a "good" thing can be bad. Change your habits by putting away your phone for thirty minutes to an hour when you get home and letting your brain "idle" or delete applications that you’re constantly checking.

Are you up to the challenge? (I don’t know if I am but I'm going to try.)

Cell Phone Statistics: Updated 2013

 2013 Cell Phone Statistics

New information has been released about how we used our cell phones, smartphones, and mobile devices in 2013. Some of the stats show a clear move among the average cell user towards it being their primary gaming, internet, and communication device. 

New Data From Pew Research

  • 97% of adults have a cell phone. (Up 4% from 2012)
  • Of these, 56% of those phones are considered "smart phones"
  • The cellular phone is the most quickly adopted technology in history. 
  • Cell phones are seen as key to actively participating in your community. 
  • 29% of users describe their phone as something they can't live without. 
  • 9% used their phone to contribute to charity. 
2013 Showed Growth in Mobile Marketing Importance

  • 34% of all users are "mobile only", meaning they use only their mobile devices and have no other computer or telephone. (Up 9% from 2012)
  • 41% of mobile users browse on their mobile devices for a product after seeing it on an ad on television. 
  • 80% of users will participate in e-commerce this year. 
  • 36% of smartphone users admit to "shopping around" on their phones while at a retail location, before committing to a purchase. 
This data is still forthcoming from the final quarter of 2013.  We will post a new update soon. 

2012 Cell Phone Statistics


As technology continues to improve, the use and saturation of cell phones and their users continues to change drastically. The increase over the last ten years has been incredible and the way we use our phones to stay connected and informed continues to change.

From Pew Internet

  • 87% of American adults own a cell phone, and 45% of those are smart phones.
  • Only 12% of adults age 65 and over have a smartphone.
  • 82% take pictures on their cell phones, up from 76% in 2010.
  • 29% check their bank account online, up from 18% in 2011.
  • 9% of adults have texted a charitable organization to make a donation.

CTIA Research Stats

  • 45% of businesses state wireless is essential to operations.
  • 2.27 trillion text messages were sent.
  • 1.1 trillion MB of data was used.
  • 28,641 cell phone towers were added across the US.

Mobile Usage Growth

25% of internet users are mobile only - meaning, they do not access the internet for browsing from any other device.

71% of smartphone users that see TV, press, or advertising that interests them will immediately do a mobile search.

The average American smartphone user spent nearly 30 minutes a day checking or updating social networks.

2011 Cell Phone Statistics
The way we use cell phones has changed drastically over the last year. Once upon a time, we used cell phones to make calls while we were away from our homes. Recent studies show that we may be migrating away from our primary use of the phone to more of a texting and mobile web device.

Pew Studies 2011

  • 53% of adults own a smartphone.
  • 13% of users surveyed pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid social interaction.
  • 42% of people have used their phone for entertainment when they are bored.
  • 51% of users used their cell phone at least once to get information.
  • 27% said they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone.
  • 29% turn off their phones to take a break from their digital life at night.

Updated Statistics for 2009

I was sitting around the other day marveling about how popular cell phones have become. It’s amazing that in our culture we make ourselves available every minute of every day -- thank goodness for call display! Anyway, I did a quick Google search and stumbled upon an interesting article with a list of cell phone statistics that I thought was worth sharing.  

Here’s what I learned:

  • Cell Phone usage in the US has increased from 34 million to 203 million in the last ten years
  • There is an estimated two billion cell phones world-wide, which means about 4.5 billion people go without.
  • A 2004 MIT survey said that cell phones was ranked as the one invention that people hate the most, but can’t live without. It beat out the alarm clock and the television!
  • A 2005 University of Michigan study said that 83% said cell phones made life easier (choosing it over the internet).
  • A Let’s Talk (retail company) survey said that 38% of people thought it was ok to use a cell phone in the bathroom. (Other stats show cell phone use in restaurants, theaters, supermarkets and subways).
  • A telephia survey said that Americans average 13 talking hours a month – with the 18-24 age group averaging 22 hours.
  • A Sprint survey said that 2/3 people used their cell phone backlight to find something in the dark.

I wonder how many people would stop blogging to answer their cell phone?

Excuse me, I have call…

5 Ways to cut your cell bill - from ConsumerReports Magazine Jan 2008

Special Caller Deals
Cingular has roll-over minutes.  Most carriers allow free in network calls (like a Verizon to Verizon call).  Alltell and T-Mobile offers a select number of phone numbers which you can call for free.

Overage Charges
During months with higher than normal usage, increase your plan just for that month making sure you don't spend the .45 cents per minute for minutes that are over your plan.  Also make sure to regularly check your bills to determine if you need to increase or decrease your lines.  No sense in paying for more than you need.

Control Usage by Children
AT&T offers a limiting service which controls several aspects of the calling behavior.  From the web parents can limit the phone numbers dialed, duration of calls and more.

Pay Attention to All Charges
Getting a good deal on minutes is good, but make sure you consider all other charges.  Text messaging is a great feature but can add up very quickly.  The standard rate for one text message is 15 cents.  With Texting Plans, messaging can drop to only a penny per message.  Also make sure to check the rates for data and web access.

PrePaid Phone
If you barely use any minutes, and 300 minutes is an overkill for you, then a prepaid phone may be the best option.

How Professors Engage With Students

In college, the professors are facing long class times with students as well as more intense information. My favorite professors were always the ones who found a way to present information in new and exciting ways. I did better in classes where my professors made me a part of the learning process. What can you do as a teacher to keep your students engaged in your lectures? Here are some things that my favorite history professors did in college that always kept us engaged.

Tell a Story

By the time they get to college, students know about the landing of pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. How does a professor keep students engaged in a lesson that they know the ending to? My professor would find a way to tell a story about events that we might know now about. When I was hearing the story of colonization again, I learned that the pilgrims didn’t bring enough women along in the beginning and that for a long time; the colonies were under the threat of simply vanishing because their population was not growing. This story made a subject that I knew a lot about seem fresh and new.

Don’t Rush to the End

Encourage your students to participate and engage in the conversation. If you are rushing through the slides to get a good handle on the information, you miss a huge chance to pull your students in through participation. Dr. Carter of European History always encouraged us to ask questions, present discussion topics, and weigh in on controversial statements. As we made notes, we could ask him at any time why a certain decision was made versus another.

Wait to Give Out Handouts

Instead of handing out a copy of notes or the slides at the beginning of class, hand them out as students are filing out of the room at the end of the day. It will keep students from feeling like they can “check out” of the conversation at the beginning of the lecture because they already know what you’re going to cover. The professors I had never did this. They didn’t want us to check out as soon as we walked into class.

If you want students to stay present in lectures you have to give them lots of chances to get involved. These are some of my favorite professor’s tactics that even eight years later, I remember so well, and they are still some of my most enjoyable classes.

Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions and Why They Fail

We are already halfway through January. Many of you have probably made your New Year’s resolutions before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. But how many of you are still sticking to them? Some studies show that roughly 78% of those who make New Year’s resolutions fail at sticking with them. I used to make New Year’s resolutions myself. But after a month or so into the new year, I went back to my old ways. So why do we keep playing this cycle of promises to ourselves when we’re only destined to break them?

The New Year Means It’s Time for Change

At least that’s what we’ve been programmed to believe. In reality, a new year just means that the number at the end of the date goes up one increment for the next 365 days. We all still have bills, jobs to go to, and families to take care of just like we did before the New Year was rung in. But we like to think that because we are starting a new year, we can make a bunch of changes to ourselves all at once. Most people make their New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Gyms love this time of year because it means a boost in their gym membership sales. Everyone is ramped up to slim down. But after the excitement of making the New Year’s resolution has faded, going to the gym or sticking to a diet means having to work at it. And that’s when most people start losing interest. If you want your resolutions to stick, then the best way to do it is to show up. Woody Allen was right when he said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. If you show up to the gym, you might as well work out.

We Like to be Ambitious

Wouldn’t we all feel so much better about ourselves if we achieved goals like running a marathon, climbing to the top of Mount Everest, or writing a 300 page novel? Of course we would. It’s in our DNA to be ambitious and try to accomplish extraordinary ventures. What we sometimes fail to realize is that we have to take baby steps to get there. Maybe not to the extent Bob Wiley took it to in What About Bob. But you can’t expect to run a marathon if you haven’t ever had any training. I would love to have a best seller novel published, but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen with the first book I write. It might, but it’s not likely. So I’m taking baby steps to get there. A couple years ago I tried out for a writing competition called NaNoWriMo where you are challenged to write 50,000 words within the month of November. I accomplished writing 15 thousand words my first time. That’s more than I have ever written for one outlet. This last November I achieved 25,000 words. This November, I may end up reaching my 50,000 word goal. I didn’t do it the first time, but I’m taking my baby steps to get there.

We all Want a Clean Slate

After going through twelve months of our lives becoming a habit, the New Year seems like a good time to start fresh and try new things. And why shouldn’t it? We buy new calendars that are clean and untouched of our appointments and meetings. We celebrate the night before with friends and loved ones on the hopes that the next year will be better than the last. We get caught up in the excitement of what the future holds. But no one says a clean slate has to begin at the New Year. If you have a desire to change something about yourself, whether it’s losing weight, being more organized, or trying something new, then run with it when it hits you. I started my weight loss goals in August and considered it to be an early resolution to myself.

Personally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I just make resolutions. Any time during the year I find myself slacking in a certain area in my life, I make a promise to myself to change the bad habits I have slipped into. My health, my work, and personal aspects of my life shouldn’t have to wait until the New Year to be fixed. What experiences do you have with your New Year’s resolutions?

How Your Brain Drives Productivity and Focus

There comes a point in our day where we have a task to do and we simply cannot get our brains to cooperate. Maybe there’s a batch of emails you need to send out or there’s a meeting you just can’t get excited about. I've always just attributed it to just not being excited about the particular task at hand.

In marketing, we have to communicate with people – talk, email, think, conference, brainstorm, send smoke signals, or whatever. One of the things we don’t always think about is that we might be trying to do the wrong tasks at the wrong time. Research studies have shown that it’s not what you’re doing but when you’re choosing to take on a particular task.

Science may seem boring but if you understand what’s happening in your brain at any point in the day, you can get the most out of the chemicals buzzing across your brain.

Relationship building should be the focus of your first few hours at work. High levels of oxytocin make you feel connected and cuddly to the world. You can harness this hormones power by reaching out to clients, writing thank you notes, or engaging on social media. Oxytocin is a hormone that is more related to your personal relationships with family members or significant others, but you can take action while your levels are high and you’re at work.

Creative activities are the most effective in the mid-morning hours. Have you ever wondered why cleaning or crafting is a stress reliever? The hormone cortisol (the “stress hormone”) will help your brain focus on tasks and prime you for learning. Since cortisol is highest in the mid-morning hours, it’s the perfect time to plan out that presentation, do research for an upcoming infographic, or sit down to write that blog post that you just know is going to break the Internet.

Save difficult or complicated tasks for after lunch. The hours just before and after lunch time can be your most productive. The melatonin levels (the “sleep hormone”) will be on the decline at this time of day and you will have the mental focus and drive to take on the world. Melatonin levels can be affected by the kind of meal you have and how much you eat, so make good decisions at lunch time to keep the sharpness. This is the time to focus on those emails you send out, scheduling conference calls, or making pitches to your clients and bosses. This is the time of day where you are sharpest and ready for success.

Collaborate at the end of the day. By late afternoon, your brain is on a natural downswing which makes it the best time of day for laid-back activities like a brainstorming session. This is another good time to engage on social media because you’re feeling friendly and laid back. If you spent your morning re-tweeting or sending out links, this is a good time to talk directly to your followers.

Obeying your brains needs and desires at home is just as important as at work, because everything you do once you get home will have an effect on your next day at work. Start by getting a better night of rest.

  • Exercise before 6 PM so adrenaline levels will be down before you go to sleep.
  • Repetitive activities like doing puzzles will help you wind down for bed time.
  • Eating late at night will cause problems with your sleep schedule as your body metabolizes the food.
  • Practice darkness therapy to get better sleep. Put down the cell phone, turn off the television, and cover light emitting objects in your room with electrical tape. (I have done this and it’s worked great!) The light sources actually prevent your body from making melatonin at the times it needs to, which can prevent you from getting a good night of sleep.

To be more productive both at work and at home you must listen to your brain. It will tell you what you need. Do you base your tasks around the peaks of your brain power or do you just work down the list? Is it possible to get more out of your hours by letting your chemicals control you?

Information Gap

I put my fingers in my ears and sing La La La La to keep from getting information I do not want to know. Or, I just hold out my hand and repeatedly say stop it, stop it, stop it, in hopes of drowning out sounds. I use these tactics when I do not want to hear an ending of a movie or am in a haunted house. Probably not the most mature response, but it works when you are on the spot. Effective, sometimes funny, but not the right etiquette for work.

Over a phone conversation, it’s hard to gauge interest and engagement. You cannot tell if your clients have their fingers in their ears or their mouth partly open trying to find a point to interrupt. Are you answering their question or are you giving your answers?

Good way to test it is to stop talking and listen. If they have called, then they have something to say. If it is more than one request, then have a means to write it down without interrupting them. Once they finish speaking (there will be silence for a couple of seconds), I go over the points or questions and answer them one by one, making sure that they have received a complete understanding and a clear answer before moving to the next one.

Did that answer your question? Does this help to understand how it works? Is this the service you were looking for? Do you have any questions on what we just reviewed? I find this a more of an effective way then interrupting or answering before you know the question.

As Judge Judy says, "You have one mouth and two ears for a reason". We are all experts in our fields. To be better influences, determining what they know versus what they need takes the power of listening.

Three Reasons to Start Sending Personalized Thank You Cards

Over the holidays, I went and spent a lovely afternoon with my godson, his parents, and my husband. We exchanged gifts, had lunch, and watched an eager one year old tear into his new blocks. About a week later, I got a handwritten note from my friend thanking us for coming by. She always does that and I think it's one of the most endearing qualities about her (aside from my adorable godson). We're so close and yet, something so simple mattered so much.

It got me thinking about sending thank you cards. We do that for our customers and I've gotten emails back thanking me for the note or someone contacting me for something they had forgotten about until they saw my note. You can go far beyond just a simple "thank you for your business" and if you"re not sending out thank you cards, here are three reasons to add at least one to your daily to-do list.

Add A Personal Touch

Recent research studies show that many of your personality traits are linked to your handwriting. If you write with large and swooping lettering, you're more of an outgoing personality. Including your handwriting to a new customer is a great way to introduce yourself. I bet you never thought of your handwriting as "friendly". If you don't like your penmanship or have been referred to as a "chicken-scratcher" there are exercises you can do to improve or change your handwriting.

Tell Them Something They Don't Know

When I write a thank you letter to a customer, I'm always sure to take a look at their account and see what feature they aren't using. A lot of times, your customer may not know about something that you have to offer and if you mention it (even in passing) it could peak their interest. If someone isn't recording their calls or if they are having large conferences, I always mention operated events. It's a way to present a new feature they might not even know they need.

Stand Out Among the Junk

Our lives are filled with junk, from your spam folder in your email to the new family dentist hanging a flyer on your door (how do they get away with this?). Sending a thank you card in the mail (with a real stamp – very important) brings back that bit of excitement that we had when we were kids and we got to go to the box first. Okay, maybe it's not that exciting, but a hand written card will stand out in that stack of mail, as opposed to the email that might get accidentally deleted.

Adding a single thank you note to your daily list of things can go a long way to making a connection with new or existing customers. Thank them for a new account or thank a customer that's been with you for an entire year. It goes a long way for both your company and the customer. Do you send out thank you cards? How do you decide who gets one?

Where We Came From

I have a two year old granddaughter. It has been fascinating watching her grow from a fuzzy bean on a screen to actually having a dialect with her. Although I have raised two children I was so focused on feeding, cleaning, teaching, manners and trying not to totally mess up their psyche, that I missed some of the small stuff. With my granddaughter, I get a "do over" without all the worry.

The other day she was being fussy and I was trying to figure out what she wanted. Do you want to color? Your "nanimals"? Ellie (the elephant)? Juice? How about a snack? Everything I suggested was wrong! Then my sweet angel threw herself on the floor of the kitchen and started flailing her arms and legs. I believe that this is the age where our bodies are a cross between human and beast. I stepped back and let her go at it… I can do that, because I’m "Dama". She would cry and look at me every once in a while, when I would look at her she would cry even louder not knowing what to do with my reaction or rather my non-reaction to her tantrum.

After a few minutes, she stopped. She laid quietly on the floor with her arms still covering her eyes. I bent down and gave her a kiss and asked if she was alright. She nodded yes. I said , "Are you done?" She nodded her head again and reached up for me to hold her. I wiped her tear stained face and saw her sleepy eyes. It was almost nap time. I took her to her bed and lay down beside her while "Violet the Bear" played soothing bedtime music. She went fast asleep. That was what she wanted.

I have had a few days like that. I am not sure what exactly I want or need and just need to escape for a moment and regroup. What a joy it would be to throw myself on the ground and flail until "Dama" can figure it out. But of course I can't, my mother raised me with manners. And…..I prefer not to become "(whispers)the crazy lady down the hall".

Sometimes you do just need to vent. Other times, you need to take a breather. And at other times, someone else will have the answer. As an adult, we don’t have the luxury of tantrums (and those adults that do, are avoided at all costs). Yet, it is fun to think that at one point in your life, you were two years old, doing a bad rendition of the break dance.

Most Shared Posts in 2013

Happy end of December everyone! We had a great time in 2013 trying new things and taking new approaches on the blog and in a lot of other areas. It was a great year for us here at AccuConference and in celebration of the New Year; here is a look back at some of our favorite posts, as well as the most shared.

5 Ways to Get Your Audience’s Attention

When was the last time you saw a speech or attended a conference call where it didn’t begin with "Good morning, my name is…."? Getting the attention of your audience during a presentation can be a challenge while you compete with all of the distractions like cell phones, tablets, and social media. This list is a great way to try a new and improved opening for your presentations to get your audience to sit up and tune in.

Active Listening Skills for Customer Service

Listening in customer service is the most important thing that you can learn. When someone is talking to you, you need to tune out everything else and actively participate in your conversation with your client.

Why Adults Learn Languages More Easily Than Children

Research has proven that children are better than adults at a lot of things (like honesty and imagination) but one thing that we’ve learned is that when it comes to something as complicated as learning a new language, the adults have one up on the kids out there.

Breaking Down the Technical Barriers to Customer Service

This is a technical industry that we work in and a lot of times, we get bogged down in our terminology. Things that make perfect sense to us don’t always translate to new or existing customers. What approaches can you take to help ease your customers through new words?

Learning New Things: How We Approach New Challenges

We took on some new challenges at AccuConference and one of the things we learned as writers is that sometimes, you have to take a risk in order to improve. We wrote a series of posts in the fall about how we learn new things and how we face the challenges that arise.

Those were our most popular posts in 2013. Stay tuned and keep reading in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Does It’s A Wonderful Life Really Need a Sequel?

One of my favorite holiday movies has always been It’s a Wonderful Life. I remember growing up and watching that movie every year. To me, it wasn’t Christmas unless we popped in our VHS tape and watched George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, go through life as if he had never been born. And every time a bell rings, I can’t help but wonder if an angel got their wings. The sentiment of the movie is classically heartwarming. It expresses the gift of being alive and how you impact other people; no matter how big or small.

Now, 60 years later, there’s talk about a sequel being made by Star Partners and Hummingbird Productions. The premise is the grandson of George Bailey, who is somewhat of a Scrooge, is visited by his own guardian angel, his Aunt Zuzu. Zuzu, who will be played by the original actress Karolyn Grimes, tells her nephew that the world would have been a better place if he had never been born. After reading the synopsis, I had mixed feelings. Does It’s a Wonderful Life really need a sequel? Would it have been better as a reboot? Or should it just be left alone?

These days it seems like every movie is getting "rebooted". Movies like Gremlins, Flight of the Navigator, and Robocop are all reported to be receiving Hollywood’s movie makeover. And while it might be cool to see how advancements in special effects will make these movies look (The Great Gatsby reboot was more visually enhanced than the original), it makes me wonder if every movie really needs to be rebooted. Annie, another movie that’s in the works to be redone, is probably one I would leave alone. If you’re not going to throw a bunch of money to make the special effects pop, there’s really no reason to hash out the same story unless you’re sure you can tell it better.

On the flip side, if film makers aren’t going to reboot a movie, then they’re probably going to make a sequel. In my opinion, it’s hard to make a sequel better than the first. If a movie is really good, then it’s going to have a strong following. And if you decide to make a sequel, you better do a really good job or you will be disappointing a lot of fans (Grease 2, Teen Wolf 2, pretty much anything that has a 2 at the end of the title). Besides, not every movie needs a sequel. And not everyone wants to see it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty excited to see Anchorman 2 when it’s released in theaters on December 18th, but I think that’s because Ron Burgundy is in his own league.

In my opinion, the sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life should be erased from the drawing board. The original is a heartwarming classic that I don’t think really needs a part 2 or a makeover. I think it’s perfect as is, and it’s familiarity can’t be replaced by Hollywood gimmicks. And apparently, Paramount agrees with me. Well, maybe not with my reasons but they do not support a sequel for the holiday classic. Paramount holds the license to It’s a Wonderful Life and they are willing to fight Star Partners and Hummingbird Productions to keep the sequel from going into production. Even Tom Capra, the son of Frank Capra who directed the movie, said that his father "would have called it ludicrous" if a sequel was made. The proposed date of release will be in 2015, so I guess we will see who will win the sequel battle. What reboots or sequels do you think should have been left alone?