17 May 3 Lessons I Learned from Throwing My Phone in the Trash

Last Thursday morning started out quite differently than usual. While I was starting the car, with my daughters in the back seat, I realized that I didn’t have my phone. Ugh. Since we’re always in a time crunch and trying to avoid the dreaded tardy slips at school, I knew I only had a few extra minutes to look for it. I hopped out of the car and jogged to the house to frantically search for my phone, with my wife helping me look.

I Freaked Out

We spent about five minutes searching. I forgot to charge it the night before, so I had plugged it in by the toaster. When Rachel went to make lunches for the kids, she moved my phone and plugged it in elsewhere. She claimed that she had unplugged it and put it on the kitchen island shortly before we were about to leave. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we couldn’t find it anywhere. I had a quick freak-out moment, blamed Rachel for the problem, and left the house without my phone. It felt worse than not having my wallet. You feel kind of naked, right?

Could You Get through the Day without Your Phone?

Rachel continued to look at home. When I arrived at work, I quickly sent my leadership team an email to let them know that I was going to be phone-less for the day. Team member after team member stopped by my office saying something like, “You really lost your phone? You of all people? Ha! How are you going to get through the day?”

How Many Times Do You Touch Your Phone Per Day?

Until these side comments started pouring in, I never realized how much I use my phone. According to Dscout Research, average cell phone users touch their phones 2,617 times per day. The top ten percent of cell phone users touch their phones more than 5,400 times daily. I’m probably in the middle of the two numbers. Where are you?

3 Lessons I Learned from Throwing My Phone in the Trash

After attempting to remain relatively calm all day at work, I immediately went back to my frantic search as soon as I got home that evening. I looked in all of the same spots that I checked earlier. Again, I accused Rachel of moving my phone before making the lunches. At 8pm, about twelve hours after my phone first went missing, I checked one last spot…the garbage can outside. Thankfully the garbage men didn’t come that day because, to my surprise, my phone was laying inside of the white trash bag right on top. Turns out Rachel hadn’t misplaced my phone after all…I had actually thrown it away. Whoops! While this was definitely not an intentional no-phone challenge, I still learned the following three lessons:

  1. I really can focus on deep work during the day. Typically, I do my best work at 5am and again at 8pm — the bookends of my day — when I have little to no interruptions. During this phone-free day; however, I experienced an additional highly focused bonus hour because my phone wasn’t there to distract me. I actually found myself “in the zone” or “flow” smack dab in the middle of the workday when stress and pressure are the highest for me. Flow is our peak state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. Why is this important? According to a 10-year McKinsey & Company study, top executives reported being five times more productive in flow. What are you doing to create flow for yourself and/or your colleagues during the workday?
  2. I multitask too much. Without my phone, I felt naked. I realized that I workout while checking my email on my phone. I stand in line at Starbucks while browsing social media. I talk to employees while glancing at notifications on my phone. At night, I read the news on my phone while eating snacks. Although I hate to admit it, when I come to a stoplight while driving, I glance at my phone. Needless to say, I check my phone too much…and waste a lot of quality time doing so. An experiment by Bob Sullivan and Herbert Hugh Thompson, the authors of The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success, found that work interruptions decreased accuracy by 20 percent. On top of that, research at the University of California Irvine found that it takes a typical office worker twenty-five minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Instead, I should bond with my trainers during my workouts, talk to real people in lines at Starbucks, put my phone in my pocket when a team member wants my time, read a book while eating snacks, and listen to self-development podcasts while driving. How could your life improve if you minimized multitasking?
  3. I can stop feeling so guilty about using my phone. I think there is a time and a place for everything. I can cut down some of the wasted phone checking, but let’s face it…some phone use just makes life easier. We use our smartphones to transfer money instead of going to the bank, check the time instead of buying a watch, take pictures instead of carrying a separate camera, record video instead of lugging a camcorder, pay for coffee instead of using a credit card, check email instead of firing up a desktop, map routes instead of looking at a physical map, wake up instead of setting a separate alarm clock, add and subtract instead of a trying to locate a good old fashioned calculator. I don’t know about you, but having one device to pretty much do it all is awesome. How grateful are you to be so much more efficient and effective because of your device?

Manage Your Device

The question to ask yourself is not, “Do I have the ability to carve out some no-phone time every day?” The question is, “Do I have the will to schedule no-phone times daily?” Click to Tweet: Just because you can spend the entire day on your phone doesn’t mean you should. Manage your device. Don’t let your device manage you.

ACTION: We can live without our smartphones for chunks of time. For each of the next seven days, schedule one hour without your smartphone. Instead, invest those hours with the people and things that matter the most to you.

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