My phone broke down a couple of weeks ago.
Instead of immediately switching my SIM card to another phone, I decided to grab the opportunity and create a little experiment for myself.
I wondered what it would be like to live without a phone for one week. I am well aware that humans have been doing perfectly fine without smartphones for most of history, but times have changed and living without a smartphone can almost feel like missing a limb these days.
Our faces are glued to our screens most hours of the day. People tend to check their phone from the moment they wake up, until time has come to get back to bed. Our smartphones seldom are more than a meter (or 3 foot, if you will) away from us. If there was an easy way to do it, we would probably use our phones while taking a shower.
In this article I’ll share with you the things I learned, and the things I struggled with while living without a phone.
Will I suddenly notice the birds and find happiness in the small things? Or will I become a helpless outcast of society?
Will I change the way I interact with my phone after this experiment? Or will I quickly return to old habits?
Read my 16 most important findings below:
Alarm clocks are not my thing. Although I like the fact that I felt less tempted to laze around, I don’t generally enjoy starting the day with a minor heart attack caused by the alarming sounds this ancient device makes. If I’d were to live without a smartphone, I’d definitely invest in a wake-up light.
I had no idea how much time I spent browsing my phone in the morning! Without a phone, my morning routine was reduced from a whopping 1 hour and 20 minutes, to a mere 40 minutes. Crazy! I quickly adjusted my schedule and was able to spend more time sleeping in. It had a positive impact on my mood.
I don’t always wear a watch. Not knowing what time it was all the time, made me feel anxious in the beginning, but less rushed in the end.
Not constantly having my phone on me, did feel a bit like missing a limb (not that I’d know how that feels like). It felt like I was missing an important part of me, now my phone was no longer in my pocket. It took me five days to get used to it.
Taking a drive in my car felt a bit uneasy in the beginning, knowing that I wouldn’t have a phone to call anyone if I were to be in an accident, or if my tire went flat (which happens quite often in The Bahamas, potholes are not uncommon). I quickly got used to this, however. If you’re in the need for help, you’ll generally find a way.
The days I walked around with a bunch of CD’s and a Sony Discman are over. I missed having my favourite music on me, especially in the morning and while driving my car. No more podcasts. No more Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and The Beatles to get me through the ‘boring’ parts of the day.
I don’t know if the decrease in listeners made radio terrible, or radio was terrible to begin with and that’s why people stopped listening to it in the first place… but it’s not my vibe. I found myself listening to more annoying ads and music that didn’t match my mood than I was ready for. I need my Spotify!
I felt less distracted at work. Normally, when I’m about to lose focus doing a task, I grab my phone for a quick mental ‘break’ – browsing through my social media feeds. I could still do this on my laptop, but the temptation was less prevalent. Instead, I found myself powering through, quickly regaining focus. I’d say I am about 10% more productive without having my phone within reach. Which takes me to my next point…
I spent a lot less time on social media (surprise, surprise). Although social media was still available to me on my laptop, the effort to grab my laptop outweighed the benefit of a quick browse through my social feeds. This tells you a lot about how little upside there is in casually browsing social media… because it wasn’t that hard to grab my laptop.
I felt less connected with my friends, but more connected with the world around me. I felt more ‘present’. It significantly improved my mood throughout the week.
Note: I cannot live without WhatsApp. It’s the app I use to keep in touch with friends and family. Luckily WhatsApp is now available on desktop, without having to connect it to your phone.
I missed taking pictures of the scenery around me! I love capturing the beauty around me throughout the day. It felt quite unsatisfying to witness beautiful scenery, and not being able to share it. What was I supposed to? Just sit there and enjoy it?! Crazy talk!
I missed sharing tidbits of my day with my fiancée. I missed making her part of my day, sharing the things I experienced while she was not around me. Something simple as taking a picture of what I ate that day, or capturing a moment with colleagues and friends… it was no longer an option.
I missed being able to take notes where ever I go. I never know when inspiration hits me and not being able to take notes, I felt like I had lost some great ideas that week. I don’t want to be the person that walks around with a notebook and pen all the time either.
Creating a shopping list wasn’t as easy as it used to be. I had to print my shopping lists using my laptop, or create one with a good old-fashioned pen and paper. Not ideal.
Anyone remember TomTom? Yeah, me neither. Who needs navigation when you have Google Maps? I found myself having to memorize routes to new places. Luckily, Nassau is a small island and I didn’t get lost once, otherwise I’d have to ask a stranger for direction… the horror!
I love lounging on the couch while writing my next blog article on my phone. It’s my favourite way of being productive, while being lazy. It doesn’t work the same with a clunky laptop on your lap. I found myself writing less – a lot less – because of this.
I missed a couple of birthdays, because my phone’s calendar wasn’t at hand to send me a notification. Not great. If I’d want to live without a phone altogether, I’d definitely have to get myself a paper calendar or an agenda.
The two most important takeaways…
So… I lived without a smartphone for one week. Been there, done that.
My two most important takeaways of this experiment are…
- Not having a smartphone on me gave me a considerable amount of time back in my day. Not having the time on me all the time, made me feel less rushed.
- Not having a smartphone on me made me feel more connected with the world around me, improving my mood.
So… what to do with all these new insights? Will I change my behaviour, or will I quickly return to my old habits?
How this experiment changed how I interact with my Phone
Only a fool would learn something and than not apply its lessons. Although it’s tempting and easy to fall back to old habits… there are some things I changed around for the betterment of my own well-being.
I became more conscious of the moments I grab my phone, making a more deliberate decision whether I should, or should not kill time browsing my social media feeds.
I now keep my phone tucked away in a drawer at my desk when I’m at work, to make it slightly less tempting to grab my phone when I lose focus. Being more productive makes me feel more satisfied.
I also installed an app called ‘Stay Focused’, to limit the availability of social media apps during my morning routine and work hours.
If I hadn’t done this already, I would have turned off the notifications for a majority of my apps – but I figured this one out a couple of years ago (I highly recommend it!).
The smartphone can be your best tool, or just another deteriorating drug – you choose.
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