Smartphones, Blackberry devices and other portable devices now enable us to stay connected to the outside world on a continual basis. 24 hours a day, for 7 days a week, we are able to access news, market data, email, text messaging, social media and just about any website we like with a few taps or swipes of an index finger. Never have we had access to so much information, so quickly.

Setting yourself rules for your phone and email is a critical priority, mainly because it’s difficult to maintain your focus on tasks, spend quality time with friends and family, or get much-needed downtime if you’re being manipulated and controlled by the messages coming into your phone.

So, here are 10 handy tips on how to ensure you’re in control of your smartphone, rather than it being in control of you:

1. Establishing ‘no-go’ times when your phone is off – for example before 8am or after 8pm

2. Letting staff or managers know that you’re unavailable in these times – either verbally or using an auto-reply message

3. Have a separate phone for personal email, calls and messages (but apply the same rules around usage at the beginning and end of the day)

4. Delete icons for apps that waste your time, such as Facebook, Twitter, and any others (you can still access the sites from a PC but this will prevent you from wasting time looking at content that excites the monkey-brain part of your mind and stops you focusing on you)

5. Delete apps that have alerts (even news sites like the BBC) or turn off the alerting service

6. Keep your phone in the other room, especially at night (if you use it as an alarm clock then keep it on the other side of the room so that you aren’t tempted to check it in the night or end up reading from it before you go to sleep)

7. Get into the habit of going out without your phone on weekends or some evenings; you’ll miss it to start with and will have several panicky ‘where’s my phone’ moments but after a while you’ll start to appreciate what’s going on around you without the distraction of a mobile phone

8. Allocate specific times of day for checking, replying or creating emails and messages – if you’re disciplined about this then you’ll probably increase your productivity as well as reducing your stress levels

9. Be realistic about setting expectations in terms of your response times – if you inform people that you only check emails or messages every morning for an hour, they won’t have the expectation that you’ll respond quickly to an email

10. I have heard of people who ask guests to leave their phones and Blackberry devices by the front door when they arrive for a dinner party – this is a great idea and ensures everyone is free of their number one distraction (and means unexpected photos don’t pop up in your timeline the next day!)