For the whole of August, I embarked on a smartphone detox. There were a few reasons as to why, but the most prevalent was a worry around burnout. For the past 18 months I’d be working hard setting up and growing Shine Workplace Wellbeing, while also ensuring I was spending ample time with my two young sons.
I was starting to feel exhausted and while holidays and days off always helped, I wanted to try something a bit different to see what impact it would make. It was also the school summer holidays and I was taking Mondays off to look after my eldest. I wanted this to be a memorable time and for him to have my full attention, rather than me getting distracted by work emails popping up.
And while I didn’t think I was addicted, I was conscious I used my smartphone more than I liked and wondered what effect this was having on my own wellbeing.
So on August 1, the all singing all dancing smartphone was replaced with a Nokia 105 with calling and texting its main features. Yes, it did have Snake(!), but no email, internet, apps or camera.
Here’s what I found
I slept better. Within a few days I was falling asleep faster and felt my quality of sleep improved, meaning I felt fresher the next day.
I spent more time in the moment. With no distractions and occasional quick phone checks, my focus and concentration – be it on a work task or spending time with the children – was greater. This meant I was more efficient with work and personal activities were more enjoyable. And because I was in the moment more, I was a better father.
I read more. I needed entertainment for journeys so while I’d have previously relied on my phone for news, sport or Spotify, I finally got through some magazines and books I’d been meaning to read for months. In turn, I probably learnt more.
After a few days, I really didn’t miss it (apart from the areas listed below) and I didn’t feel like I missed out in any way. I discovered you can access Whatsapp on a computer, so I checked in on that occasionally. I still used a computer on the days I was working, but once I finished for the day, I didn’t interact with digital devices again.
My mind felt calmer and gradually de-cluttered. I felt more relaxed, happier and content with life.
My concerns about how we use phones though only exacerbated. Not having one allowed me to observe people’s behaviour with theirs. Many parents seemingly spend more time interacting with a handset than with their kids; a lot of gym users scroll through feeds rather than exercising; and roughly 90% of people on train carriages use their phone through journeys – no books or newspapers, just the lure of the screen.
Oh and the world didn’t end.
There were negatives…
The one thing I missed most was Maps and journey planner apps. On busy days with multiple meetings, I had to spend time the night before plotting routes which took up a bit of time.
The Ashes were on for a large proportion of the month meaning I was without score updates when away from home / office!
Not having a camera option meant I missed out on capturing some good moments on days out with the kids. That’s easily remedied for the future – bring a camera!
So what now?
At the end of my smartphone detox, I returned to my smartphone. It unquestionably makes aspects of life convenient and is a great tool when running a start-up business. However, I have made major changes to how I use it – and the Nokia is still in the mix.
On days where I’m just at home or in the office and I don’t have a need for a smartphone, the Nokia 105 is the device of choice. The simple SIM card switch takes under a minute.
If I’ve got a busy day of meetings and I’m out and about – and I need to check emails, use maps etc – the smartphone gets the call up!
At home, the lounge is now a phone free zone. And upon returning from work on a day I’ve used the smartphone, it goes in a drawer so the full focus can be on the family.
Having made these positive changes and the wellbeing benefits I experienced during my smartphone detox, I feel like the decision to ditch it, albeit temporarily, had the desired effect. I know it won’t work for everyone, but I would encourage you to try. And I’m happy to offer any further advice or more details on my experience – drop me a line if you’d like them: firstname.lastname@example.org
This post was not sponsored by the Nokia 105 😉