This week, my phone died a sad, watery death while out on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition. It turns out that while the waterproofing on the outside of my coat is somewhat diminished, once the water gets into the pockets, they are very much still waterproof, and fill up with water quite nicely! Not good when you are storing your mobile in there….
This resulted in an enforced 2 days without mobile communication, which already followed 6 days out on expedition with very limited signal. In between frustrated trips to visit the bag of rice in my airing cupboard that my phone was now submerged in a desperate attempt to dry it out, I tried to take this time to reflect on the impact that that small piece of metal and plastic has on my life.
1. Time. Firstly, I found I had more time. Normally, when I wake up in the morning, I spend at least 30 minutes looking at Facebook and BBC news, catching up on what has been happening in the world. This is repeated at several times throughout the day, between clients, on the bus, even on the loo (don’t judge, you know you do it too!)
Without my phone surgically attached to my hand, I found I had a least a couple of hours spare in my day, to do other, more productive things. While keeping up with the news of both the country, and family and friends is important, its maybe not necessary to do this multiple times a day, when in fact, all you end up with is watching old talent show auditions and clips of Michael Macintyre that are doing the rounds on Facebook.
Lesson: Allocate one time of day to spend on Facebook and BBC (unless there’s a big news story like the election going on) and limit this time to 30 minutes. Important news will stick around for at least 24 hours.
2. Distraction. I hadn’t noticed how often I look at my phone until it wasn’t there. (I was still looking at it a fair amount with hourly trips to the bag of rice to see if it was working yet!) After 6 days out in the rain, I rewarded myself with a day of catching up on the Britain’s Got Talent semi-final’s and final. Every 10 minutes or so, I would find myself looking around for my phone to check if I had any notifications, before remembering it wasn’t working. Gone are the days where I concentrate on anything fully. As I got used to the fact that my phone wasn’t on the sofa arm next to me, I was actually able to more fully engage with what I had chosen to do with my time (fair enough, BGT doesn’t take much brain power to understand, but I do the same in other situations too, like when I’m working, trying to write blogs, reading a book…..pretty much anything.)
Lesson: Switch off notifications, or put your phone on silent and in a different room when you want to concentrate on something. The world (almost definitely) won’t end in the next 1.5 hours and you’ll be much more efficient at the task in hand.
3. Mobile phones are completely ingrained in our lives and processes. Even when claiming for my phone disaster online, it asked me for a phone number in case they needed me to contact me about my claim…… After screaming a few expletives at the screen at the ridiculousness of this request from a company that deal with mobile phone insurance claims, it made me realise that I am living without access to a landline (or partners) phone for the first time ever. This initially created a feeling of panic that I was now pretty much uncontactable. Even communication apps like Whatsapp can’t be set up on your laptop without first verifying it’s you, with, you guessed it, your mobile phone.
Lesson: Thank god for email, Skype and Facebook messenger!
4. People expect instantaneous contact. I had several clients coming that day. One was mildly annoyed when she arrived as she’d text me a question about 15 minutes previously and I hadn’t replied (I’m normally pretty quick at these, so this is partly the expectation that is set.) Another client had wanted to change her appointment to earlier in the day, but I didn’t reply to her text and she commented that this was strange. While both were perfectly happy when I explained what had happened, it made me reflect on the instantaneous nature of the society we live it – we want everything right now. A couple of clients also text me to say they were running late, which again, I couldn’t receive. My reflection on this is that, as a society, we are less committed and more unreliable than we used to be. In the past, if you set a time to meet someone, you pretty much had to honour it, as there was no quick way to get in contact with them unless they were sat by their landline. Now, people are happy to cancel a meeting less than 15 minutes before, or turn up late with a quick text to say so, leaving the other person hanging around.
Is this increased flexibility? Or a decreased amount of respect for other people and their time? I am occasionally frustrated by clients who I have waited in all day to see, who then cancel at the last minute for a spurious reason, leaving me annoyed that I could have been doing something better with my day.
Lesson: I already highly value any commitments I make, to do what I say I will, particularly with being on time. I already appreciate that this isn’t the case for everyone else. I think my lesson from this is to only see clients at a time that suits me, particularly those that I know are prone to being late or cancelling. That way, if I am let down, I haven’t turned down another opportunity of something I would rather be doing.
So, its clear to most people how ingrained in our lives mobile phones have become. They are a truly wondrous invention, with a whole world of information at our finger tips and the opportunity to be instantaneously contacted wherever we are. On the flip side of this, there is increased evidence showing how they impact our lives, with research showing links between depression and Facebook addiction, or between the blue light phones emit and problems sleeping, and many more.
My own short period without my mobile has made me reflect on how much time it wastes, but also how lonely life is without one! While I wouldn’t like to live without my mobile indefinitely, it certainly made a nice break for a short while, with more time and more focus for other things.
If you’d like to experience this feeling of disconnect in order to reconnect with yourself and what’s really important to you, you can join us on one of our Wellbeing Retreats. We have a no technology policy for all shared spaces (and the signal isn’t very good in your own room anyway) so it gives you a real opportunity to focus on the twice-daily yoga, beautiful countryside walks and coaching that we do. You can find out more and book a place at www.reachthepeak.co.uk/wellbeing-retreat.