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Digital Minimalism: first day without my phone

Lately I’ve been trying to maximize the quality of my free time and also my productivity at my workplace, so I started following a movement called ‘digital minimalism’, which briefly consists of reducing the time we spend in front of a screen periodically checking for updates on different social media and thus wasting precious time and contaminating our quality time.

Digital Minimalism, a day without phone
My actual phone, always at arm’s length

Although I was never very active on social media sites, I do have an Instagram account that I use as a ‘photo diary’ and only after reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport did I realize that I’m spending quite a lot of time on Instagram checking out the posts of people I follow or just browsing random pictures when I have nothing to do and feel bored. I immediately uninstalled Instagram and all apps from my phone that are just hunting for my attention. I significantly reduced my screen time, but also started thinking about the times I didn’t even have a cellphone, not even a ‘dumb’ one…

I was 18 when my parent gave me my first cellphone, a Siemens T10, it was as big and as heavy as a brick, but since the day I got it, I have never left the house without a cellphone. That means roughly 14 years. Wow! I had my phone with me when going to classes, for a walk, to the gym, I even had it on my nightstand every night. About 2 weeks ago after finishing the book ‘Digital Minimalism’, my phone got banished from my nightstand, being replaced by a basic wristwatch with alarm function. When I go the gym, it is left in the locker, so I don’t surf the Internet between sets. Unfortunately I have to take it to me since they have to scan my 7Card QR code when entering. Still, progress is progress. But lately I’ve been thinking about leaving my phone home for the first part of the day. I’m a Software Developer, so I have access to communication anyway, I can contact close friends anytime on Facebook Messenger if I need to. But I still had thousands of excuses why not to leave my phone at home. Here’s a short list with the best ones:

  • Right now I drive a 2004 Golf mk V, it’s a beater, what if it breaks down and I need to call for help or for a tow truck?
  • a I’ve got a rental property, what if the tenant has an emergency and tries to contact me?
  • What if something happens to one of my family members and they cannot reach me?
  • I’m the first person arriving to work in the morning, what if I fail to properly disable the alarm and it goes of? I cannot call the security company to explain myself and call off the response team.
  • I don’t have a lot of money on my main bank account, what if I need to urgently transfer money from my savings account and I don’t have access to the mobile application?

Well, some of these cannot be solved without a phone, but I gave it a shot and this morning I left my phone on the dinner table. I said to myself that I cannot be that I’m driving 20 kms to work and home, if something happens, in the worst case, I’ll park my car on the side of the road and ask a stranger to call a tow truck for me. Every other emergency will just have to wait a few hours, I cannot do much anyway while being at work. If it is very urgent, they will contact my wife…

It was an interesting experiment, but I cannot say I’ve fully enjoyed it. Although I had access to the Internet, it felt weird, I had a feeling that I spent the day in isolation. Felt like losing a leg, it was not necessary for my work, but I still missed it. I suppose it was strange because it was the first day in 14 years when I left my phone at home, it could get better by time if I decide to continue down on this path. I have planned to make this step at least for 2 weeks and in the last minute I always grabbed my phone because I was thinking of a situation when it would be absolutely necessary. But for my surprise when I got home today and checked my phone, I didn’t have any notification of missed calls or urgent text messages.

All in all, I’m quite proud of myself for making this step and will follow the digital minimalism movement, but I might seek other solutions instead of leaving without my phone in the morning. I could buy a ‘dumb’ phone, which would allow me to make and receive calls, maybe write text messages as well, but that would mean that besides my smartphone, which
occasionally I’ll still need for taking pictures or for navigation, I’ll have another thing to take care, keep it charged and so on. The best solution at the moment could be turning the mobile data off on my smartphone thus transforming it to a dumber one and keeping it out of sight, in my backpack. That means that I won’t receive notifications and I will be interrupted only if I get a call or a text message.