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I look at my iPhone before getting out of bed in the morning, after I climb into bed at night, and at least 5 times per hour in between. Judging by the statistics, I’m not the only one.

One study found people checking their phones 150 times a day, on average. Others put it at nine times an hour or up to once every six seconds, depending on who you are. All around us, we can see people glued to their phones when they should be getting sleep, watching the road, paying the cashier, or getting work done. We love our smartphones, and they certainly can amplify the impact of our work, but the continual focus on our mobile screens can also be a productivity killer.

That’s where UNICEF’s Tap campaign comes in. The charity, which improves access to clean water and sanitation around the world, runs annual fundraising projects with restaurants or other partners during World Water Month. This year’s campaign is a bit different. UNICEF sponsors have offered to donate a dollar for each minute that a user goes without touching their phone.

That could make it, quite literally, the most valuable 10 minutes that you spend NOT using a tech tool today.

Here’s how you do it:

  • unicef tap smartphone for productivityGo to uniceftapproject.org on your phone’s browser
  • Follow the instructions to start the clock running
  • Put your phone down on your desk, preferably out of sight, for as long as you can humanly stand it. If you touch or nudge it, the phone’s internal controls will stop the clock.
  • Repeat every day in March

You may need to run out to lunch without the phone in your pocket, get lost en route to your next meeting or, heaven forbid, lose your ranking on Words with Friends because you can’t touch the phone.

But you’ll also get something valuable in exchange – time. You can

  • Finally power through that slide deck for tomorrow’s presentation and finish it earlier than you expected.
  • Get your inbox down to zero today without responding to the chirps of arriving tweets or texts.
  • Have a great conversation with a potential lead as you’re standing in line at the sandwich shop.

Challenging yourself to device detox for a noble cause turns out to be a mini-personality test, a competitive game, a productivity hack and a good deed all rolled into one. When you’re “jonesing” for your phone, the thought of people who spend much more time deprived of clean water might push you to go one more minute without it. That makes UNICEF’s Tap Project a lot more effective, fun and rewarding than traditional time-tracking productivity tools like Time Doctor or RescueTime.

As far as I’m concerned, anything that gets me to look at the real world instead of a screen for a few minutes a day is a great thing. The fact that my new productivity hack would benefit someone else is an amazing bonus. Now if only I could put down my phone long enough to try it…


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“This article was originally posted by Prialto: The Virtual Support Service for Executives. Prialto Virtual Assistants are geared to actually pull your business forward and make delegating easy” 

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