Life Without a Phone is Awesome

Before I left Chile, I sold my iPhone as part of an experiment to find out whether I really need to carry one.

After 3 months, I have a solid appreciation of the benefits of having a mobile communication device… but I’m also aware of many of the seductive dangers that come with them, too!

This time, I’m going to talk about some of the benefits I’ve experienced from a life sans phone.  Watch out for the next article where I talk about the challenges I faced… and the ultimate outcome from the experiment!

So, what’s so great about not having a phone?

1. It sets you free.

How many times a day do you pull out your smartphone “just because” — not because somebody is calling/texting you, but because you feel an urge to check on your social network?

And, when you unlock your phone and see that you have no notifications… do you open a few apps anyway, just to check?

But by far, the worst part is when you have no reception and can’t connect to the internet.  I can’t count high enough to tell you how many times I’ve glanced anxiously at my phone to make sure I still had no reception.

If I recall correctly, there are two primary indicators of addiction:

  • A physical or psychological compulsion to engage in a particular behavior.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop doing it for awhile.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s safe to say that I was addicted to my smartphone!

When I sold my iPhone, I definitely experienced a bit of withdrawal:  I felt phantom vibrations for about a week, and I experienced some anxiety and feelings of being disconnected for maybe a few days.

But that was about it, and after just a couple of weeks, I was completely adjusted to life sans smartphone!

No more absentminded social network checking; no more, “Hang on; I gotta do a check-in”; no more feeling uneasy that it’s been over an hour (or even 8 hours!) since I last checked my email.

It wasn’t the end of the world as I knew it, and I still feel fine.

2. It forces you to keep your mind active.

What do you do to pass the time on a long bus trip?  When you’re in line at the pharmacy?  While you’re standing on the metro platform waiting for the train to arrive?

Now ask yourself, how would you pass the time if you didn’t have a smartphone?

By giving up a phone, I freed up an incredible amount of time for introspection, people-watching… or even daydreaming.

When I am with friends, I don’t have the luxury of jumping onto my phone if the conversation dies down — so I have to get creative (and at times, brave!) about coming up with ideas and experiences to share with my friends in order to keep the momentum going.

The result has been phenomenal.  I have reclaimed at least an hour every single day to plan out my upcoming projects, learn more about myself and my mecosystem, and I have formed much closer relationships with my friends than ever before.

Imagine what you could do with an extra hour (perhaps more!) each day to think, converse… or just let your mind drift and see where it takes you!

3. It teaches you the value of commitment.

Whenever I plan to meet up with my friends somewhere, I have to be very aware of the fact that once I leave my wifi hotspot, I will have no way to contact them!

So when I say that I will meet somebody at 1:30 in the afternoon, I have to be there exactly when I say I will be there.  Otherwise, the other person will have no way of knowing whether I’m running late… or standing them up!

It also means that if I can’t make it for some reason, I have to let my friends know before I leave!  I don’t have the option of canceling en-route; once I head out, I’m committed!

This helps me think critically about what I commit myself to.  If a friend or a professional contact invites me out, I know that I can only say “yes” if I am 100% sure that I’ll be there.  I have to be very proactive about keeping my schedule in order and avoid “double-booking” myself at all costs.

In addition to keeping your agenda sane, ensuring that you always show up on time demonstrates that you have incredible respect for other people’s time, and it makes other people more likely to respect your time as well.

In short, everybody wins!

4. It makes your photography more deliberate.

When I arrived in Bangkok, I suffered from a mini-crisis.  My iPhone previously doubled as my camera… but since it was gone, how was I going to take photos for my blog??

So I ran out to MBK and picked up a Go Pro.  Now I have a sweet hi-def camera for photos and videos.  Awesome!

But it also takes a bit longer to set up for each shot.  Plus, I usually keep it in my backpack so that it’s protected from pickpockets, which means I also have to expend the effort of removing my backpack and taking out the camera.  It’s a bit of a pain.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that it really forces me to stop and do a quick cost-benefit analysis every time I feel the impulse to snap a photo.

If I see something that piques my interest, I now have to ask myself, “Is this interesting enough that it’s worth the time and effort it would take to pull the camera out, set it up, take the shot, and put it away again?”

I recently did a podcast about photography as self-reflection.  The key takeaway is, the more deliberate you make your photo-taking process, the more you can learn about yourself and what’s important to you by studying trends that emerge in your photographs.

Think about how much more valuable your photos will be when every single one of them requires at least a little bit of conscious evaluation!

5. It switches you from “consumer” mode to “producer”.

When you pull out your smartphone to pass some time, what apps do you normally pull up?

Do you write, draw and create?  Or do you play games and check your social networks?

What if the only apps you had on your phone were a text editor and a drawing canvas?

When all I have is a notebook and a pen, I don’t have the option of sitting back and passively consuming content from the internet.  The only things that end up in my notebook are what I put there, which means that every time I pull out my notebook, I go into “producer” mode.

As Chris Guillebeau notes, changing your default behavior from consuming to creating is a great way to boost your productivity.

But it’s really hard to change habits using willpower alone.  Stack the odds in your favor by removing the temptation to consume!

What would you do differently if you didn’t have a smartphone?

Title Photo Credit: flickr