One experiment I’ve been trying for the last two months is taking twenty-four hours each week to be entirely phone free. My goal is to give myself time back to focus on things that matter – rather than living in a half-distracted state all the time. I’ve chosen Thursdays. Anecdotally, it seems to be the day I receive the least messages, phone calls, and distractions, so there’s potentially less to miss.
The first Thursday I turned off my phone I’m sorry to say I really did have withdrawal symptoms. There was a constant buzzing in my head as if I had forgotten something or was missing out. It’s not to say I was completely disconnected. I was still online on my Mac throughout the work day. But the difference is I sought out distractions rather than having distractions pushed to me. I still checked my email. I still skimmed my RSS feeds and read the news. But without the constant pinging of my phone beside me, I was able to stay away from Twitter, Facebook, and many other websites that eat away at my day.
Making it through that first day was embarrassingly difficult. But I’m happy to say I managed. And each week as Thursday has rolled around, I’ve come to find it easier to power down my phone for the day. I’ve even come to look forward to it. My mind feels clearer – less hurried. And as I’ve become more and more used to being checked-out, I’ve also stopped checking-in on Twitter and Facebook as much throughout the rest of the week. I’ll do a short catch-up session in the evening rather than always staying up to date during the day.
As much as our always-on devices have improved our lives, I really do believe being constantly connected is taking a measurable toll on us. I know it has contributed to my battle with anxiety. And I fiercely believe in and have witnessed real internet addiction among some of my family and friends and to an extent myself. That’s why I’m purposefully trying to tone down my dependence to these quick hits of information during the day.
I’m not suggesting I (or you) eliminate social networks or whatever your particular internet vice happens to be. I get far to much use from them both personally and professionally to entirely tune them out. But I do think we’re (hopefully) approaching the height of our collective addiction and will see a pendulum swing back towards a healthier balance.
So that’s why I’m taking Thursdays off. And it feels good.