November 22, 2017 admin

Two years without a smartphone

Two years ago, I ditched my iPhone 6 for a Nokia 130.

It was an extreme decision, but it felt the only thing left to do. I was tired of being constantly connected. I couldn’t find a way to break the addiction of compulsively checking things.

It took a couple of weeks for the urges to go away —  but go away they did. And once they did, life got better. I’m not tempted to go back one bit. It’s been life changing.

Recently I reflected on some of the benefits from living without a smartphone:

  • I used to feel exhausted from being constantly connected. Dipping in and out of the phone frequently throughout the day was mentally draining. It used to give me a headache towards the end of the day. I rarely feel like that anymore.
  • I read more. I found where possible, the kindle replaced the habit of browsing apps on a smartphone —  most notably on the daily commute. That’s about an extra hour of reading per day!
  • I’m more present in social situations. Checking email, or twitter, or the news, or medium when out with people is a thing of the past. It’s literally impossible for me. This is easily the biggest benefit of not having a smartphone in my pocket. It makes me feel a bit sad to see this now:

  • I hardly ever think about charging my phone. This doesn’t seem like a big win at first. But let me tell you —  you don’t realise how much of an annoyance it is to charge your phone every day. The Nokia lasts well over a week on a full charge. And it charges from flat to full in no time at all.

It goes without saying, I love not having a smart phone. But, there are a few things I’ve found to be a bit frustrating (aside from small children thinking your phone is a toy!):

  • Google maps is amazing, until you no longer have access to it on the go. I now have to check google maps on the laptop before setting off, and then try and remember the route. I often get lost and have to ask people for directions, which is annoying and wastes time. The only way around it is to print out the google map directions before setting out. Talk about flashbacks of 10 hour family car drives to France when I was a kid. Map reading never was Mum’s strong point!
  • It can be a bit annoying not being active on whatsapp. It’s super good for keeping in touch with friends, particularly when we go on a trip together. I kinda cheat a bit here. I have an old iphone 4 that I use for biking and running (strava and apple music). It doesn’t have a sim card in it, but it can connect to wifi. I will often bring that along to trips so I can at least get the photos and join in on some of the chat. It still feels like a slight cheat —  because technically I still own a smartphone. I’m still thinking on this. It’d be cleaner to get rid of it, but it is useful at times. It hardly ever pulls me back to old habits, so I need to think on it.
  • I use the laptop too much. I’ve always used a laptop throughout the day for work. But, since not having a smartphone, I use it more in the morning, evenings and weekends. It’s easy to slip into checking things too frequently. I need to fix this, as it’s a clear loop hole that eats away at the above benefits. More on that below.

The frustrations are minor and easily outweighed by the benefits. So, my Nokia isn’t going anywhere. I’m going to do a couple of things, to take it to the next level though.

I’m going to set myself some strict rules for laptop usage and use Freedom to enforce them. I’ll block certain websites for a fixed time period in the morning and evening, and some parts of the weekend. I might even experiment with blocking the internet entirely for some periods.

I’m also going to start leaving my phone at home more. I just got back from a surfing trip and I would often go out for large parts of the day and evening without my phone. It felt GREAT. I want to feel like that more, so I’m going to start doing it at the weekends from time to time.

If giving up your smartphone sounds interesting, but extreme — there are a couple of half measures you could try.

Why not try leaving your phone at home sometimes? It will completely eliminate the chance of checking things you don’t need to. The other thing you might try is to buy a cheap nokia phone. The next time you head out with friends or the family, swap your sim into it and take it with you. When you get back home, you can switch back to the smart phone. See how that feels.

Both of these tactics allow you to experience not being constantly connected, but only for a short, temporary period. Who knows, you might like it enough to make the switch for real!

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Comments (5)

  1. Will KW

    I’ve tried to do something similar – but I just uninstalled the apps that distract me. I also have notifications turned off for pretty much everything other than super close friends and my girlfriend. If I need to be ‘distracted’ then I have the kindle app to read.

    There are a lot of simple living / frugal posts on ditching smart-phones – but for me it’s what you do with it.

    I do think a smaller phone with a larger battery to screen ratio helps here – I’m hoping apple do a 8s or similar with a small screen.

    But as with anything – it’s about what works for you.

    • Hey Will, good to hear from you.

      100% agree.

      I wish I had your willpower. Uninstalling apps and removing notifications didn’t work for me. Going that extra step was what I needed to force a chance in my habit / behaviour.

      You’re right about ‘it’s what you do with it’.I just got back from a surfing trip. I noticed that the instructors all had smart phones. But they hardly ever felt the need to check them and mostly used it for music. They lives live more presently than me without one!

      I’m back in Cambridge as of Dec. You still in London? If so, I’ll drop you a text when I am next down there. Maybe hit some old fashions and have a flutter again! 😉

      • Will KW

        I’m still in London – working around St Pauls area now.

        Whatever works for you is whatever works for you. Tech addiction is a real thing and it is a weakness – but it happening to you doesn’t make you weak. Being more present in your life and for your family has to be the best thing.

  2. David Donoghue

    Great post and I feel your pain regarding the burn out from staying connected. Like Will I opted to delete a lot of my accounts and apps that I felt were more than I “needed” or were duplicates of the same type of experience. In general I have a on/off relationship with my phone and while I dip into distracting habits I nearly always have a reaction when I notice it affecting my every day life.

    I took a few deliberate steps to improve my relationship with my phone:

    1. I did a conscious audit of what each social app was providing to me on any given use and asked myself if it was adding in any positive way to my real life. After a few weeks; Facebook, clearly a waste of my time just a habit; Whatsapp, distracting but useful; Twitter, useful but full of hate etc etc. I then not only removed the apps I didn’t want but deleted the accounts.

    2. Notification cull. Turn them all off – nothing is important beyond a direct phonecall / message or an email to my personal account. Everything else is bait.

    3. Clean out email subscriptions -I now immediately unsubscribe to everything I receive as a basic action. If you let this slip your inbox (and notifications) get out of hand.

    4. Limited App rule – self imposed limit of 2 pages of apps for absolutely everything on my phone. I still had a folder with all the useless apple apps in there, but beyond that I had to fit every app I would ever need onto two screens. It forced me to prioritise utilities over distractions. Eventually I reduced from 2 pages to 1 page and 2 lines of apps… it was like a personal challenge and had a really positive effect.

    5. I love current affairs but News apps are evil – I think the most addictive thing about social media is the news – whether it is someone reporting it or talking about it. IMO News apps are therefore THE most intrusive and damaging apps that exist, they incite worry and depression and constantly describe the worst things about the world. Read the news only on a laptop, and only twice a day.

    6. No slack, no work email, no jira, no google docs. No work connections. If anything at work is so important to be contacted after hours then my phone number is in the system 😀 I only have Bamboo so I can book holidays and Calendar events so I can plan my day.

    7. Be present in public and amongst others. I try to only use my phone when I need to – never on public transport, and as little as possible when with others at a table or bar etc. It is often in those situations when it is most uncomfortable to not occupy yourself that you see or observe the most interesting things, whether it is people watching while sitting alone at a table in a cafe, or standing at the train station – it is actually really rewarding and refreshing.

    • Some great ideas there – thanks for sharing them!. I wish I had your willpower and discipline. Thats probably the right way to cope with having a smartphone and not letting it own you. A really useful guide for others if they want to keep a smartphone and manage the distractions.

      Agree on Facebook. I left it entirely. Also on news apps. Horrible and sensational headlines keep attention unfortunately.

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