I gave up my phone for a week and it changed the way I worked

My smartphone is one of the most valuable items I use on a daily basis. Without it, I would not be able to keep my small business running or my personal life in order. I have four social media accounts to maintain, five active email addresses that receive multiple messages a day, and a Slack channel with active conversations. Oh, and sometimes I actually use my phone to call someone.

I have no doubt that I actually communicate more with people through text messages and social media messages than I do in person. In fact, I actually prefer this method of communication more than in person contact. I even find myself looking at my phone as I pass by people to give myself an excuse not to talk to them.

My smartphone makes me more efficient, right?

It’s not that I’m antisocial, I just prefer to avoid wasting time with small talk when a direct text message is faster. For me personally, I feel that I can accomplish so much more with my smartphone that I am without it.

My wife frequently confronts me about my cell phone usage. I have built up bad habits with it at home and find myself using it while we are watching television and sometimes even at dinner. A couple of weeks ago, my wife had enough and told me she was tired of not getting my full attention when I was home. 

I could tell she was quite frustrated with me, and it was at that moment I decided I would try an experiment. I would give up my phone for a week.

Giving up my phone for a week

Before I gave up my phone, I had to give myself a few rules and exceptions. Because I use my phone for work and for my boss to communicate with me, I still needed my phone. However, I decided I would not check emails, social media, or text for a week. If people needed to contact me, they could call me, but that was it.

For this experiment, I still had my phone on me, but I did not look at it unless it started ringing in my pocket. For my small business that I have on the side, I would use my desktop computer when I got home from my full time job to respond to any emails or do any tasks. No more phone usage.

Days one and two

The first two days were met with odd emotions and feelings I was not prepared for. Because my phone was still in my pocket, I found I started to feel phantom alerts and rings that were not coming in. In addition to these phantom vibrations, I also noticed an increase in anxiety. 

I started to think that I was missing valuable messages and losing out on valuable opportunities when I wasn’t.

Days three and four

Because I was feeling phantom vibrations, I decided to set my alerts to do not disturb and put my incoming calls to an audible tone. Also, I placed my phone on the window ledge behind my desk, so I would not tempt myself to check my phone or feel the imaginary notifications.

Days five through seven

Towards the end of the week, I finally became comfortable without having my phone on my person and did not feel like I was missing out on anything. I noticed a significant change in my work product and my ability to achieve much more during the day than in the past.

How giving up my phone for a week changed the way I worked

Before I started this experiment, I felt my smartphone increased my productivity and streamlined communication with my supervisor and peers. It turns out, my phone added a considerable amount of distractions to my daily work product and actually delayed many of my projects.

After giving up my phone, I found I could concentrate more on my projects and complete them much faster than when I was constantly checking my phone for emails and updates. In addition, I was forced to talk to my coworkers face to face. It turns out they are actually a bit more interesting than I gave them credit for.

Truth be told, there are a few of my peers that drag on conversations way too long, but talking about our kids and our weekend plans was refreshing and something I did not realize I missed.

The impact on my small business

I thought my social media accounts and emails needed constant attention to keep my small business afloat. After this experiment, I found that I still maintained the same level of engagement, even though I was only accessing social media on my desktop computer once a day. 

In addition to my social media, I found that the emails to my small business accounts also benefited from short delays. In the past, when someone would contact me with a business opportunity, I could respond within a matter of minutes. During my experiment, often, my emails were delayed by a day. 

While you may think this hurt my business, it actually helped. I have a sneaking suspicion that when you reply immediately, it looks like you’re desperate for business. When you take your time, it looks like you’re much busier than you actually are. 

All in all, after giving up my phone, I have changed how I work. I am much more focused on how much I was using my phone and now consciously limit my phone time until all my work is finished. To top it all off, my wife is much happier now that I leave my phone on the counter during dinner and movie time!

If you find you are constantly on your phone, try a week of being unplugged and see how much it benefits not only your social life but your mental health as well.