24 Hours with a Turned-Off Phone—What I Learned
Earlier this month, I was pretty cracked from a whole lot of travel, a whole lot of keeping up with a bunch of different jobs, and just in need of disconnecting a little from my work life, which spills so far over into my personal life—especially since Peter and I do a lot of work collaborations—that it was getting to the point where I couldn’t remember what it felt like to not be working in some capacity.
So, I shut off my phone, computer and iPad for 24 hours. I figured that would force me to take a breath and just chill. And I, of course, survived just fine. (Confession: the 24 hours was from 4PM December 31 to 4PM January 1, so I knew I likely wouldn’t miss anything crucial. Baby steps!)
How did it go? I jotted down some notes the next day (because of course an experiment about not working had to turn into a working blog post). After a couple weeks to mull it over, I wanted to share. And yes, I consider this part of my month of travel writing, because being a digital nomad is great, but being able to truly turn off every so often is equally great.
This was way harder than I thought
I knew I was going to have a hard time with not having any connection. We were in a hotel that night, and I actually gave the hotel number to my mom and dad, just in case. (This is how people used to live—how?!) And I admit, a couple hours in, I was jonesing for my phone. I’d be waiting for the elevator, or waiting for Peter to tie his shoes and I’d instinctively reach for my phone just to check Twitter, Instagram or email. Even writing this now, I’m staring at my phone, longing to do a social media scroll-through. It’s maddening, because there’s no reason for it!
I don’t actually need to check email as much as I thought
A couple jobs I do have time sensitive stuff. Lots of quick-turnaround articles, and with trips that we plan or I manage, there’s a lot of email. But, to be honest, I realized that I’m probably wasting a lot more time checking it constantly and reacting versus checking it a couple times a day and focusing for the other times. New solution? I’m testing out having a browser with email tabs open, but minimized, and another browser open for blog and research stuff. It’s helping, since I can’t see the inbox number click up and get distracted as easily. Turns out, the distraction thing really does turn into a time-suck.
I should do this more often
It was AMAZING how much calmer and relaxed I felt at the end of the day. I hadn’t really relaxed like that in ages, and once I got over the initial freak out and panic, I was so much happier. I definitely plan to, starting next week when I’m not in the middle of a crazy work trip, start trying to find 24 hours (or, honestly, even 5PM to 12PM Friday-Saturday) to keep my phone and laptop turned off. Even fun stuff like Instagram is a stressor to some extent, and the way I felt after 24 hours of radio silence, just time with Peter and my family (and a lot of cookies and Christmas movies) was just so illuminating to me. I didn’t realize how stressed/ready-to-jump I had been.
I waste a lot of time on the internet
Perhaps the most valuable lesson of all. When I turned everything back on, I realized that I wasn’t really that far behind anything. Actually, I was totally fine. And sure, a couple more days and I’d be getting some angry emails from editors, but really, I didn’t lose out on much work time. What I did realize was between all the email-work-email-read-email-Twitter-email jumping, I was spending way more time just aimlessly cleaning my inbox or getting caught in a meme spiral. And sometimes, it served a purpose, but if I added up the amount of time I was wasting hitting refresh on Gmail or flipping through my RSS newsfeed for the 10th time in a day, I was wasting a lot of time multi-tasking versus just really focusing on big-picture pieces.
And that, my friends, is why my phone is turning off a lot more often. Let me know in the comments: have you ever tried the phone-fast? How did it go?