12 Jun

Is A Smart Phone Really A Smart Idea?

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to spend 9 days in the Canary Islands, soaking up the sun and I really enjoyed the time away from my desk.

I almost always take my phone with me wherever I go. It’s only a cheap and cheerful Blackberry Curve, but it gives me access to email and web when I “need” it, but for this particular holiday, the phone didn’t come with me. It was never really my intention to leave the thing at home, I’d always thought I’d have it with me so I could keep on top of things with my business and projects etc. But the decision not to take it was kinda forced upon me as by default, Roaming is not enabled on mobiles from Virgin Media, meaning the phone just won’t work abroad.  So with no roaming set up, and the thought of outrageous call and data charges being clocked up on my bill if I did get it enabled, I decided it was best to just leave the thing behind. I would in theory though have access to email etc in the evenings via my tablet, so I wouldn’t be totally disconnected.

Having no phone for those 9 days was, I have to say… unusual! It felt very weird. I first noticed it standing queuing in Costa Coffee in Birmingham Airport, while my Fiance and Daughter had wandered off to another shop. The first thing I normally do when I’m waiting on my own is check my phone. 9 times out of 10, there’s nothing new, or worth even looking at, but I always check it. Maybe it’s a comfort thing… or just an addiction.  But this time, it was weird! I had no phone… nothing to pass the time. It was like I’d been hit by a wrecking ball!

I looked around me, and all I could see were people on their phones… Heads looking down, engrossed in their own digital world. I could count the number of people without a phone or other device on one hand! It was crazy! The whole world seemed to be permanently engaged in some kind of virtual existence… Not one was having a real conversation or taking notice of the world around them.

This continued on holiday too. The longer I was without my phone, the more I began to really notice what other people where doing. There we were, on this beautiful, hot, sunny island in the middle of the Atlantic, with the sea, beautiful blue skies and fantastic surroundings and so many people were still engrossed in facebook and twitter, completely missing the amazing world around them, in favour of living in an electronic world on a “Smart Phone”, that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Yes in some ways it’s amazing, but come on… This planet is a fantastic place to live… Who the heck would want to miss it?

The more I noticed other peoples behaviour, the more it rang alarm bells with me too. This was what I’d been doing… and it made me feel quite embarrassed to be honest. The amount of time I’ve spent glued to my phone and missed out on conversations with friends, family and loved ones. Checked my email constantly looking for that nugget of something to put a smile on my face like a notification of product sale, or an ebay auction ending etc. Continuously pushing buttons in the hope of winning a prize, when all around me are prizes galore (not literally, but you know what I mean).

As the holiday went on, the more I came to the conclusion that a Smart Phone might be “Smart” by nature, but it might not be a “Smart” idea from a Living Life point of view. Do we really need to be that connected? Do we really need access to email all the time? Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc… Yes it’s nice to share stuff, but how often do you check your Facebook feed, looking for something exciting, something to like, something to entertain you for a few milliseconds, then after 5 or 10 mins of looking down your feed you realise “hmm… not much happening”? I’ve done it. A lot!

At the end of the holiday, I’d really become accustomed to not having instant access, and it actually felt fantastic. Liberating in fact. I was now more “connected” with the world around me than with the online world and it felt brilliant.

Returning home, I really didn’t want to even bother turning the phone on! I made a bit of a pact with myself to really get to grips with what I used the phone for, how long I spent on it and when etc. It really wasn’t as important a thing in my life as I’d come to believe and decided to put a bit of an action plan together to really cut my usage down, and allow me to be more present in real life. Some of it may seem a bit drastic, but it’s 2 weeks since we came home and I’m still going strong! I still have the ability to connect  to the web should I need it but for the most part, it’s totally unnecessary.

  1. Turn off Data completely! Yep, I switched off data access on my phone 100%. Now the phone is… erm… just a phone! No web access by default. If I really need it, I can turn it back on.
  2. Email, Facebook, Ebay and all the other things can wait until I get home. There’s never really anything that urgent. If it’s life threatening, everyone that matters has my number.
  3. Turn off email on the phone.
  4. Turn off all visual and audible notifications (except for sms… sms is still enabled in case family need me etc)
  5. Have a serious cull of my Facebook timeline… Less stuff to see means less time spent on there and more time doing stuff that really matters.

I honestly thought I’d struggle with this, but I haven’t at all. If anything I’ve become more aware of just how negatively, maybe, smart phones are affecting the world and society. No one seems to live in the real world any more. Go and sit in a public place when you have a minute and people watch. Turn your own phone off or even… leave it at home. Count how many people pass you in 10 minutes & how many of them have their heads buried in their phones… It might just shock you!

13 Mar

Kicking The Information Habit

Ok so I’ve never smoked, and don’t drink hardly anything at all these days. In fact Tina and I shared our first can of beer since Christmas, last weekend… Note: Shared! But that doesn’t mean other addictions don’t creep into our lives. I spend a crazy amount of time each day checking emails, facebook, twitter etc, just looking to see what else is happening, if I’ve made any sales of my products, seeing if anyone wants any design work doing, looking for offers… all manner of things, and all stuff that can really wait until later. Sometimes I’d check my email several times in the space of 10 minutes, just to see if anyone else had responded to a post on facebook etc! Information addiction is eating up my time!

Last week Tina randomly stuck an elastic band round my wrist and told me to flick it hard every time I nagged at my daughter to do something, and do you know what, I was amazed how quickly it’s worked. Partly because it really hurts, and partly because I consciously and subconsciously wanted to make that change.

So while keeping the band on there for that reason, I’ve also included Email, SMS and Facebook checking at times other than 9am, 12 noon and 3pm in there too, hopefully to help curb my Information Addiction.

I have plans, hopes and dreams, but if I look in detail at what I’m doing on a daily basis, I find that checking email and Facebook etc is really eating into my day. Much of my posting to Facebook pages is automated, so there is really no need for me to check things more than maybe once or twice a day.

Create an Alternative Focus

Now every time I feel the urge to check my mail, as well as flicking the band, I also get up and do something else for a minute or two to help kill off the urge:

  • Do some exercise – Grab the pull-up bar and do 10 pull-ups or dips, do star jumps, squats or push ups
  • Write a quick blog post or diary entry
  • Tidy the desk, do some shredding
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Go for a few minutes walk in the garden
  • Make something – Anything…

Whatever you chose, make sure you replace the information addiction with something beneficial to you. Those all important emails will still be there when the allotted time comes to check your mail. The world won’t end if you don’t respond to a Facebook conversation, and your twitter followers won’t stop following you just because you don’t tweet every 2 minutes… Life still goes on, and we managed pretty well before they existed.

This blog post wouldn’t have even existed if it wasn’t for me having the urge to go check email!

Grab an elastic band… Flick it hard next time you check your email, make it hurt, and enjoy the freedom, time, and clearer mind you create as a result.