30 Days Without a Smartphone Challenge

Why am I taking this challenge?

Lately, I have been feeling addicted to my phone a lot. My mind has become self-distracting. I feel unable to focus on a task for more than two minutes. Either I feel the urge to check my phone for any notification, or I start thinking of something or the other. Even if there’s no notification on my phone I start browsing through news, Instagram, Tumblr, or YouTube. I wake up with the phone by my pillow and waste several minutes on it before starting the day. Sometimes, I check directions for a place where I am perfectly aware of how to reach. Several times a day, I google random things that pop up in my head. Also, I have been watching a lot of videos on YouTube mostly about productivity and yet I fail to be productive. So, a few days ago I saw this video by Goal Guys in which he quits his phone for 30 days and I decided to do it too. So here I am. (The challenge started as a no-phone challenge but halfway through I switched to a basic phone as I was expecting some important calls.)

Day 1- I used my phone till 2 am in the night after which I switched it off and tried to sleep with my thoughts instead of the podcasts that I usually fall asleep listening to. Upon waking up in the morning, I locked my phone in a drawer in another room so that it just won’t be within easy reach. The morning passed easily without caring about the phone much. I read the newspaper, soaked in some sun.
I think I did waste some time watching a few videos and reading some news articles on my laptop but mostly I picked up the book I am reading these days- City of Djinns when usually I would have picked up my phone. While reading the book, I came upon some paras which I wanted to share with a friend but then there was no phone to gratify me instantly. I thought that I would send it through the Instagram website. Little did I know that you can’t send messages through its website, rather you need an additional application to do so. Well, I wasn’t interested in downloading another application for it so I had to share my thoughts with my friend using the good old e-mail. Also, while reading the book, I came across a few words which I needed to look up. I usually look them up on my phone on the WordUp app (which I recently started using) or just google them. But today, I just wrote them on the back of my bookmark, hoping to look them up later. This reminds me to look them up now.
A couple of times during the day, it slipped out of my mind that I didn’t have my phone with me. For instance, upon having the urge to just google some random things, my hands automatically started searching for the phone nearby, before almost in a moment I remembered that it’s locked in another room which brought a goofy smile on my face. One time, I was leaving my room and was just looking for my phone to take it along. Another time I looked for my phone to set a timer. But in all these instances, it only took a few seconds for me to remember that I am doing to challenge, so no phone.

Day 2- I missed my phone even less today. I read a book most of the day – 50 pages easily flew by whereas I’d struggle to read even 25 pages of it in the previous few days. I came across a few words which I had to look up, I marked them and checked their meanings later. Instead of listening to songs on my phone whenever I felt like, now I find myself just humming or singing various songs.

Day 3- Last night, I reverted to my routine of listening to a podcast while sleeping, although I listened to it on my laptop this time. (Need to stop bringing my laptop with me to bed.) I am naturally starting to feel sleepy earlier (by midnight) and wake up in the morning earlier too. However, upon waking up at probably around 8 (I don’t yet keep a watch in my bedroom), I read my bedside book for a while but still felt lazy to get out of bed so I ended up sleeping again and woke up at noon. I went out to run an errand in the evening and it did feel like I was missing something as one of my pocket was empty.

Day 4 & 5- These days I push myself to tick off at least a few tasks on my to-do list. Being productive has got to do more with you will power to work rather than lack of a smartphone. I tended to pick up my parents’ phone and play games on it or google stuff.

Day 6- The first half of the day was very productive. I gave myself tasks to finish within a certain time limit. The evening turned out to be exciting as my friend Jo showed up unannounced and gave me a surprise. I hardly get any surprises like that. With the use of phone, we always make it certain before going to a friend’s home. Rather than giving a surprise, we fear getting surprised ourselves by not finding our friend at home. Without the phone, even though that fear of getting dejected remains, but if it goes as planned then you can give the other person a surprise and make their day.

Day 7 – I had a light sleep last night, and in the absence of my friend, I felt a little gloomy today but pushed myself to keep at a particular task for just five more minutes. By doing this, I was able to complete some tasks.

Day 8 – I got up feeling extremely dysphoric today, spent most of the day curled up in bed. A phone can act as a distraction device, you may call or text someone and share how you’re feeling. But without it, I spent the day ruminating over my fears and thoughts and feeling dejected. Penning my thoughts in my journal did help to some extent. But mostly I just wallowed in self-pity. I couldn’t be productive today but I did read a few pages of a book and watched the movie ‘Brittany runs a marathon’ to end the day.

Day 9 – I had planned over Facebook messages to meet a friend and go to Bhooli Bhatiyari ka Mahal (a haunted place) today. So we met at the pre-decided place and time, which was fun as without a phone you can’t cancel at the last minute or let someone know whether you are going to be late. Smartphones have somehow made it okay for us to cancel plans at the last moment or not be punctual as we can let the other person know minute by minute of our live location. Letting go of the shackles of technology and embracing uncertainty is fun sometimes. Ultimately, we both reached the location at almost the same time. However, giving in to his habits he had already tried to call me knowing fully well that I was not carrying a phone. Phone does provide us comfort but takes all excitement and adventure out of the equation.

Bhooli Bhatiyari ka Mahal wasn’t very exciting and there were already a lot of youngsters roaming around there. Then we went to a nearby park which was teeming with flora and fauna. The trees there had been supplied with little birdhouses and bird feeders. Crows, common mynas, brahminy mynas, squirrels were all feeding together. Parakeets were busy calling and preening each other. Rufous treepies sat in shady trees and practiced their vocal cords. Flameback woodpeckers went about pecking wood. Kites and jungle crows were competing over some food. We found little cute puppies and played with them for a while before retiring in the smooth velvety grass as the comfy February sunlight flitted through the leaves and provided us with warmth. I caught up on tidbits that I had missed because of not being on WhatsApp, then we talked of nostalgic things like old TV shows and clicked pics. In the more denser areas of the park, pigs roamed around munching on grass, while crows found them to be a comfortable piggyback ride (literally) 😛

I took an hour-long bus ride back home, looking out the window at familiar places and unfamiliar faces, and the calming orange hues around the setting sun. For a moment I did miss not being able to listen to an audio book or songs to pass the time but the laid-back approach was fun in its own way. I wasn’t fidgety – checking my phone every few minutes (as it usually happens) or worried about losing it in the crowd.

Day 10, 11 & 12 – On 10th, I came across some internship and job opportunities on LinkedIn and Facebook. So just spent the last three days, updating my resume, crafting cover letters and applying to them. I am really excited about one of these internships. I am afraid of missing out on an important call because of this challenge. Thinking whether I should start my phone and use it for receiving calls. On the other hand, it’s already been 12 days, I am almost halfway through the challenge.

Day 13, 14 & 15 – I wonder if I’ve become addicted to my laptop now. It’s still not the first thing I interact with in the morning, nor am I watching as many YouTube videos as before but still I spend a lot of my time on it and have even started going to bed while watching a video or TV series. Also, now I constantly check my emails and FB messages. That’s the part which has got me worried. Initially, I had told myself to check emails only at 7 in the evening, but I’ve not been following it.

Day 16 – I gave in. I entered my SIM card into an old basic Nokia phone. I am not missing my phone but I can’t miss a work-related opportunity either. I am expecting some important calls in the next few days from the places that I have applied to and so I made this switch. I will still not be using social media so I guess the challenge still counts. Or rather it becomes a Social Media and WhatsApp detox challenge.

Day 17, 18 & 19 – I have been mostly busy studying for the last three days.

Day 20 – Today, I went out to run a few errands. While in the metro, I took out the book I am currently reading i.e., Elon Musk’s biography, and enjoyed my favorite activity to do on the metro (reading).

Day 21 – I have finally started to miss WhatsApp a little. I wonder how many messages would have accumulated especially on all my different groups and whether I would’ve missed anything important on those. Being connected to just 4-5 of my closest friends for the last 20 days through FB and Gmail has been nice. It felt like I was still at least a little connected to people. But, I have started to miss the people in my bigger friend circles. I wonder what they might be up to.

Day 22 – I attended an event today – a job fair – where I met 4-5 friends and other known faces as well. When you’re busy and in the company of your friends, you anyway don’t miss your phone. So I too had a fun day, meeting and talking to people. Rather it was a tiring day as we were on our feet most of the day.

Day 23 – I and my friend Adi, had decided to explore the Tughlakabad fort today. Late, as usual, I left my home almost at the same time as he reached the site. However, I was able to reach within 15 minutes, and then we entered the fortress. It’s the ruins of a massive fort that must have been glorious at the time of its zenith. Even now, it lies in a vast, almost isolated, area with several species of birds foraging for food, blue bulls roaming around feeling at home, cattle from the surrounding villages grazing on whatever they can find, mischievous monkeys performing their antics and trying to survive. I had taken my copy of William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns along with me, and while sitting atop the highest point of the citadel, getting a 360 degree view of the city around us, I read out the two or three paras that Dalrymple had written about his visit of this place.

Day 24 – Day 30 – I was at home all week, working on some assignments but also procrastinating. A situation caused me some anxiety and I took 2-3 days to deal with it. I watched YouTube videos or some movies almost every night. My sleep schedule was again whacked up. I felt as if I was trapped in my own head by limiting the number of people I was in touch with.

And as this challenge reached its end, I felt as if I cheated or didn’t do it well enough. For starters, I started spending more time on my laptop than before. Also, I started checking Facebook and my mails frequently, while on the phone I used to hardly ever open them. And well guess what, no important calls came, but I ended up telling two of my friends that I was using the phone so I did get a few calls from them. So I feel like I cheated. Also, I think that doing this challenge for a week or two is more beneficial than doing it for a month.

On a positive note, staying away from the phone meant that any conversation that I had, happened at my own time and pace and only with a few selected people. And even then, I replied as and when I felt like it. There was no rush. As an introvert, that’s an awesome scenario. And checking Facebook and LinkedIn feed made me aware of certain opportunities that I am excited about, so I don’t regret checking them every other day.

The next best thing was the consumption of less information. I was not being barged by news and articles by google anymore. And not getting instant updates of news from WhatsApp meant not reacting to it. Certain news articles can cause you to have an emotional reaction and derail your productivity which happened with me in December. Consuming news and discussing it also means you form rather strong opinions about certain things. And rather than doing anything about the situation those thoughts just end up taking you precious mental energy. No phone meant taking a step back, assessing what I can do and what I should do rather than just having an opinion about what’s going on.


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