Repost - Things I learned from giving up my phone for 1 day

2020-08-17 This post is over 2 years old

These last few months I revisited some past posts. I took the time to expanded on the lessons I had learned in the area since writing them. These visits took a guided path through growth areas I experience in the last couple years. I found that revisiting the posts helped me to articulate what I have learned since or by applying that lesson. I hope it has helped the reader as well.

This will be the last revisit, and it builds off of the introspection discussed last week. In our modern world, it is really hard to get away, to just figure out how you feel. That little black box in your pocket provides you ready access to more content that you could consume in a lifetime, and it is just so enticing!

I was first introduced to the concept of a ‘phone-free’ weekend by EntreLeadership ,during one of their 10 Day Challenges in 2018. It was weird, and uncomfortable.And it was wonderful, and it was quiet. I ran into the concept again as part of leadership training with Improving. This time the aim was to ‘lose the electronic leash’. It was easier the second time, and similarly helpful.

On both weekends, I found I had more time for the things that matters: my children, my wife, my home. I had more time to actually think. Finally subjected to quiet, my own thoughts can forth in a torrent. I had a number of ideas, and epiphanies while sitting thinking, without the enticement to watch videos online. If you’ve never tried one of these ‘phone-free’ weekends before, here’s what I experience on my first one:

I participated in EntreLeadership’s ‘12 Days of Intentionality’ challenge for the last 2 weeks. The last task of that challenge is to share what I learned with some one. I’ve already done this on a personal basis, but I thought a blog post would be good as well.

In particular I want to talk about the 7th Day of the challenge: ‘Take a Break’. The challenge of the day was to go without your phone for a day. Thank God! It was a Sunday so that wasn’t too hard. But, I did experience a couple potent lessons.

  1. It was eeriely quiet.

They mentioned this in the instructions. But I was still surprised at how quiet both my experience, and my mind was over breakfast. I ate more or less in silence. My usual routine, I now realize, involved checking numerous information sources. All which lived on my phone. Without it, my breakfast was calm and almost meditative. When my wife joined me for coffee, our conversation was more focused, and intimate. This experience alone convinced me of the worth of the challenge!

  1. I had to decide

The next realization I had was after church. My wife had stayed home, due to minor illness. And I wanted to bring her something for lunch, relieving her of preparing food. So I went about my usual process and went to call her to check on what she’d like me to order… Only my phone was still plugged in at home. For a brief moment, I felt my stress rise. How was I going to know what she wanted? How could I be certain it would please her !?! And then I caught myself. I used to be able to do this when we were dating! Why was it so hard now?

In truth I’d gotten lazy, and I had gotten used to certain results. I could call and ask right? But here was an opportunity to love my wife. To show her, I still remembered those little details, like how she liked her burger, or what sides she’d want. I’d like to say that the anxiety left me after I realized this, but in truth I still felt it until I got home. But my thanks to the Ramsey team for giving me a chance to surprise my wife!

  1. I don’t know everything

I know this one sounds pretentious, but hear me out. Ever been in the middle of a task when you needed to reference some information? Perhaps you looked over a video-game walk-through or you had to re-read the recipe? I had such a moment later in the evening… only my pocket sized infinite encyclopedia wasn’t available. This realization was a subtly different that the others. Here I was realizing a limitation. A kind of dependency/habit I had formed. I reached a challenge, and rather than explore it from myself, I was opting to look it up so I could ‘maximize my time’. I had a choice, deal with an unknown or pause what I was doing until I could look it up.

I am happy to say I chose to deal with the unknown. And I only partly relied on my memory from reading the info in the past! This is why I say I realized I didn’t know everything. I had gotten so used to immediate access to the internet. Any information I could think of at my finger tips. And I’d forgotten it wasn’t really my knowledge. It was an awkward, and humbling experience. And like the ones before it, I found it nourishing. As I write, I am experiencing the weight of this revelation again, and am drawn to stillness.

Now, I want to share one more lesson I learned that Sunday. But It wasn’t directly from going without my phone. Instead it has to do with the diligent, and merciful planning of the EntreLeadership team. They set us up to succeed. The entire week proceeding this challenge had been a bunch of work-related micro-practices. Both Saturday and Sunday are rest-related. But pay attention here, they ask you to leave your phone out of reach, out of sight, for an entire day. For one whose phone is woven into their life, that’s … that’s hard, and weird! It’d good, and because I trust them I’ll try, but it’s not something I do. My phone is a tool, it is entertainment, it s my connection to my wife when we are apart. And they asked me to leave it be.

But in so doing, they took great care, setting me up to succeed. They built my confidence through the work week. They encouraged me to rest and spend time with loved-ones on Saturday. And then, only then, have they asked something difficult of me. I know they realized that it would be hard, and I know they planned it to be Sunday. Religious reasons aside, they put it on a day when I would not be at work. They put it on a day when they would encourage me to rest again. They put this challenge on a day when it would be easiest to accomplish!

  1. An Excellent Example of ‘Setting others up to succeed’

To borrow their phrase, They intentionally designed their ‘Intentionality’ Challenge. So I wish to offer Kudos to the EntreLeadership team for a well-designed and instructive challenge series. I am eagerly awaiting their next: ‘Influence’. Interested in joining the challenge? Go here for more information!

Having said all this, I would strong encourage the reader to try it out! You don’t realize how much noise there is in our life until we cut out some of the sources. Whether it’s a crowded email inbox, or an enticing little black box, it’s almost imperceptible until it’s gone. In it’s absence you’ll find much of the time you thought you’d lost. Spend it wisely. Spend it with the people who matter. And don’t forget to spend some on you too! Take some time, get in your own head. Figure out what’s going on in there! And then, plan something better!