How often do you intentionally leave your phone behind?
In my case, very rarely.
In fact, I am unlikely to leave a room without tucking my phone into my back pocket to ensure it remains close at all times.
I recently ran an experiment from our Digital Habit Lab toolkit, called “Leave your Device Behind”.
This is the second time I’ve tried this experiment, and although it seemed daunting before I started, it led to a routine of device-free walks in nature with my family, and to and from school at pickup.
I found myself noticing the smell of the outdoors, meeting the eyes of passers-by and somehow, miraculously, managed to survive the walk without my phone.
These habits have mostly stuck, and whilst I do often have my phone with me on my walk to school (I now need to call my daughter’s school to release her from afterschool club) I generally refrain from using it otherwise, and continue to enjoy my screen-free walks outdoors.
For round two of the experiment I decided to tackle another moment in my day when my phone follows me like a needy pet:
For an entire week I left my phone at my desk when fetching a cuppa, and instead of succumbing to the lure of my chess app, I found myself noticing the sound of the kettle. I let my thoughts drift. And I actually took a break from “human-doing”, and took time to be a “human-being” for a bit.
Being instead of doing seems to be harder to achieve these days.
Our devices offer so many ways to cram productivity into every moment, and it can feel vital to be connected to them at all times.
Perhaps even panic-inducing.
There’s even a scientific name for the feeling. Nomophobia.
Nomophobia (NO MObile PHone PhoBIA) was coined back in 2008 after a study⁽¹⁾ was commissioned by the UK Post Office. The study was designed to evaluate the possibility of anxiety disorders occurring due to the overuse of mobile phones.
In a sample of 2,100+ adults, they found that 53% of participants felt anxious when separated from their phones, and 58% of men and 47% of women suffered from some form of mobile phone related anxiety.
That was back in 2008. I’m pretty sure every one of the 6.84 billion smartphone users globally can identify with the feeling today.
Since joining Mind over Tech I’ve run dozens of experiments from the Digital Habit Lab, and I’m always surprised at how small shifts in my behaviour can have a big impact on the way I feel.
When I first tried the experiment it felt intimidating and unrealistic, but the thing I enjoyed most about my mini tech-free tea breaks was that I couldn’t wriggle out of them.
There was absolutely no argument to justify taking my phone to the kettle, so I actually did it, and it felt great.
We do need to rest, and give ourselves a moment to reconnect and gather, but it’s not always something I prioritise for myself.
In Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less⁽²⁾ by Alex Pang, the author argues that making time for resting is a priority in modern life.
“If you want rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.”
—Alex Pang, Rest
So, next time you go for a coffee or tea break, try leaving your phone behind and see how you feel.
If you really want to embrace this experiment, get your company to sign up for techtimeout tuesday on November 28th.
This national awareness day was started by Stephanie Henson, who, after years of working long days at a computer, realised it was time for a conscious uncoupling with tech.
She launched techtimeout tuesday in 2020, and the event is now the UK’s biggest Digital Wellbeing day.
“We’re offering a simple way for business leaders to promote digital wellbeing. They just need to sign up on the website, share our resources with their teams, and encourage them to take some time away from tech on November 28th, whether that’s 10 minutes or all day!”
—Stephanie Henson, techtimeout
Running techtimeout tuesday presents a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the role technology plays in your business culture, and gives your employees the license to explore how their digital habits are working for, or against them.
This year, we’re joining the challenge and pledging some time away from our tech after the inevitably screen-intense Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Join us!
Co-founder of Mind over Tech
P.S. Want to know how more intentional digital habits could help your team? Take our Free Quiz to find out.