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6 Things I Learned When I Left My Phone At Home

Forgive the long delay between posts. I've got issues. For real.

In fact, I've always had issues (newsflash) but lately I've really got my sleeves rolled up and I'm working on them and discovering several more as I toil. So I'm busy, busier than normal, and I don't have much time to write.

It seems like everyday I'm stumbling upon incredible insights from particularly basic experiences.

Yesterday, I left the house without my mobile device. As usual I was hustling my daughter out the door to school to get her there on time. I made this discovery about two blocks from the house when my car wouldn't connect to my phone. Yes, now that I have a new car (I'm not yet ready to tell the story of how my son totaled my beloved truck on Christmas Eve 2013 and thankfully walked away without a scratch), and by new I mean brand new, I've become sucked in to the high in tech package that comes with it (that I negotiated off the price of the vehicle). "Why isn't my podcast coming on?" I asked aloud to myself, I really wanted to pick up where I was last from my previous drive in the car. I instantly panicked, doing a quick pat down of myself while driving. My search didn't produce the blocky bulge I've been accustomed to carting around in my various pockets and I sighed heavily.

"What's wrong, Daddy?" my baby asked.

I thought to myself and answered, "Nothing, baby girl. I'm fine."

I debated for another block or so that 1) I didn't have the time to turn around to get the phone; 2) my first day back to work after a week off from mild snowstorms and a company holiday I didn't want to turn back around after dropping my daughter to school; and 3) I didn't want to go all the way home on my lunch break just so I could have it in case someone called or texted me. I simply didn't want to have to go through the hoop that this particular morning was asking of me. So I simply didn't. Making the pledge that somehow, someway I'd make it through the day without my phone. I prayed that all would be fine with my kids for the day, making it unnecessary for any teacher or administrator to call me about the little one, nor would the big one need me for anything before the evening. When I got to work I emailed my wife to let her know I didn't have my phone and she'd have to email me or actually call me at my work number in my signature of my email if she needed anything.

And I kept it moving. My colleagues at the digital agency where I worked teasingly chastised me heavily for leaving a digital device behind. I shrugged my shoulders. Miraculously, I survived and then some. Here's what I learned:

  1. I got way more work done not responding to texts or more importantly, texting people and making sure I played all my turns in Words With Friends.
  2. The stressexpectation of being contacted was wiped from my consciousness for the day.
  3. My work life and personal life felt separate for the first time since the 1990s and maybe the couple of years that followed.
  4. Because of Number 3, by day's end I was somewhat missing my wife thanks to the boundary to instant access created by the absence of my phone. I left work looking forward to hearing about her day rather than already knowing it second-hand as it was happening.
  5. My day had an unfamiliar peacefulness to it. It was oddly quiet, allowing me to take heed to all the sounds around me, not just the ones I wanted to hear.
  6. It was exhilarating to not be tethered to something smaller than my hand. To spend the day upright rather than head-down constantly "chimping" - tapping, swiping and pinching a touch screen.

The experience really has me reconsidering owning a device at all. Of course my family and my job will never allow for me to not be accessible via mobile. The folks at Blackberry, Apple and Google have doomed all of us who have kids, spouses and jobs. But I'm definitely thinking differently about whether my device has to be always-on during the day or never further than my pocket - even in the bathroom.

Despite the digital landscape that allows me to make a living I'm getting closer and closer to the point of becoming unplugged. I actually experienced an unexpected heavy dose of freedom by not being connected to the device that purports giving you the freedom to do whatever you want. Because going backwards for one day catapulted me indescribably forward.

Have you been without your mobile phone for a short or extended time period? How did you survive the experience and would you do it again?

photo credit: Mr. T in DC via photopin cc

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