What I Learned From a Week Without My Cell Phone

For many years, anxiety has had a pull in my life. From what to do with my future to what time to cook dinner, decisions large and small often pulse at the forefront of my brain, no matter the time of day. Call it a type-A side effect, call it the by-product of graduate school, call it a simple worrisome personality,  call it a product of our ultra-connected, ultra-stimulatory world, I’m always thinking, always planning my next move, always stuck on the fast-forward button.

Technology has, of course, made this worse. With a job dependent on email connection, I find myself constantly checking email at home, email on my phone, email in my sleep (kidding on the last one…or am I?)


I do almost always put my phone away after a certain time while at home, but the constant pull of technology beckons me throughout my work day, even when I attempt to take breaks in between work sessions. Stuck in traffic? Time to check my email. Stoplight? Oh, that’s enough time to shoot off three responses! There simply is Always. Something. To. Do.

Judging from how many people I see looking down at their own screens, whether walking, in a store, or in the car, I know many of you might feel the same way. Even if you don’t want to be on the dang thing – it’s there, and it’s calling.

Fast forward to last week. My precious device took a spill, and I was out for a full six days. Whatever did I do? Did I survive this unimaginable tragedy?

Well, for starters:


  • I listened to music in my car, as opposed to immediately starting up my Shazam app on my phone when I heard a song I liked. Instead of recording the song’s title…I listened to the whole thing. And sang along. And smiled.
  • Instead of flipping through my social media feeds, I talked to people in the grocery store line. I met a neighbor of mine. We laughed about the weather. We realized we lived next to one another but hardly ever talk. We laughed a little more.
  • In clothing stores, I thought through my possible purchases. I examined things to see if I really needed them. Instead of taking pictures of every single thing to send along to my fashion-guru friend, all the while stocking up on meaningless goods in my cart. I saved money.
  • At home, instead of responding to messages as they popped up, I spent time reading. A real book. On the porch, in the sunshine, with the wind blowing by softly. One day, I read for two hours before I even knew it.
  • At stoplights, I smiled at floppy-eared dogs hanging their heads out of car windows. I examined funny-shaped clouds. I marveled at the beauty of trees. I used these moments between “GO” to breath, and to breathe deeply.

As you can see from this list alone, my life without my phone last week was pure torture. Now that my new cell phone is in, I’ve purposefully been leaving it behind when I’m not going to be gone for a long time. Why? Because there is Always. Something. To. Do. – right there, in the great big world just beyond the screen.

Image Source: Johan Larsson/Flickr