Phone-Free Focus

If you tuned in to last week’s post you’ll know that last week I decided to experiment with giving up my phone. Not entirely, I’m not completely nuts, but as someone whose hand is welded to her phone 80% of the day, I wanted to try using it only as originally intended – for phone and text messaging. My hope was that by removing temptation, I would trade the time I spent staring at the little screen for something more productive.

So how did I get on?

Day One

Every morning, I open my eyes, kiss my husband before he goes to work, then grab my phone to catch up on anything I missed during those hours of seemingly futile sleep. Today, I must have moved to pick my phone up three times before I was even out of bed, before remembering there was nothing to look at. I had new news apps, no weather apps and no social media. Without the distraction of a Facebook news feed, I was out of bed in minutes. Even better, instead of beginning my day in a fug of news-related melancholy, I did a guided meditation after getting up. I floated through my morning relaxed and feeling positive, and as a result didn’t have a meltdown when my new laptop wouldn’t boot up.

Day Two

Without immediate access to social media or news, I was able to start my day without confirmation of Donald Trump’s presidency, making my morning more bearable than most! In the evening, I helped a friend run a pub quiz and while I love doing it, I generally use the time to catch up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. With nothing to do but play songs I expected I’d be bored. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the experience of zoning out to the music and didn’t even notice I was being watched as I sang ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ by Billy Joel. Until I got a round of applause at the end, at least. Embarrassing!

Day Three

I cycle into town, blissfully unaware we areexpecting heavy rain showers. I cycle home later on a rain-soaked seat and end up with a seat-shaped wet patch on my jeans. Neither fun nor comfortable. But all is not lost! I escape the worst of the rain with an impromptu solo lunch at one of my favourite restaurants – Conto Lounge. I would normally spend the time on social media but instead take the opportunity to eavesdrop on my fellow diners and do some writing. I’m sure I also enjoy my meal more because my attention isfocused on it.

Day Four

Getting into this a little more now. I feel less distracted, more relaxed and the pressure to take interesting photographs or post fascinating tweets has passed. I still have my moments – watching a film leaves me itching to look up some of the actors on the IMDB app but I resist, allowing myself to simply enjoy the film.

Day Five

The majority of the day is a breeze – I’m not allowed to use my phone while I’m at work so not having it on Saturdays is no longer an issue. But when I get home I’m exhausted and desperately want to hide myself in my Facebook news feed. I do another guided meditation instead and accidentally drop off to sleep on the sofa. When I wake up I allow myself to scroll through Facebook – but on my laptop, not my phone.

Day Six

I start my day with a gorgeous cooked breakfast in bed, I study without interruption and I help my husband battle the disaster zone that is the spare room. Replacing the mindless time I spend messing with my phone with something more productive means that for the first time in months the house is looking cleaner, my work is up to date and I have time and energy for things I really enjoy. I read, I cook, I play with my cats and I spend time with my husband.


The Outcome

In all, it’s obvious to me (and probably to you as well) that although I missed having many of the apps on my phone, my quality of life definitely increased without them. I felt more alert, I had more time and I got a hell of a lot more done. But it would be silly to deny that these apps in some way enrich my life as well. Had I checked the weather app before my cycle, I could have avoided the worst of the bad weather. And as a writer, staying current with the news is important, so being one of the last people I know to discover America’s new president was Trump was disappointing. So what have I learned? I’ve learned I DO use my phone too much and that it can be upsetting to some (both my husband and a couple of friends have bemoaned my constant phone usage), but removing access altogether isn’t feasible. What I have taken from this is that it’s okay to use my phone and the apps on it, but maybe I need to use them all a little less.

Could you give up your phone apps for a week? Perhaps you only ever use your phone occasionally already? Why not share your experience in the comments below?

Phone-Free Focus

A Letter to America

The election is over, the ballots have been counted and a new president has been chosen. Is it as fair with this as with any other election to say democracy has spoken and yet, for so many of you, the outcome you see is the one you most feared.

It would be easy, at this point, to turn these few words into a bitter diatribe against your new president – a man noted for his racism, sexism and generally unethical nature – but now is not the time. A million words were used in the fight to prevent his win and they have not altered the uncertain future you now face. Re-hashing it all will make no difference.

Perhaps instead it is better to focus on the future, and on that crucial word ‘uncertain’, for in that word lies hope. For so many of you, the fear over what lies ahead looms, with visions of walls around Mexico, KKK resurgences and mass deportations all apparent possibilities. In the face of such eventualities, the future seems grim and frightening. Here, in the post-Brexit UK, there have been similar fears, and only a minority have been justified in comparison to the overall population. Our process is incomplete, our own future uncertain, but I say to you the same as to those of us in the UK:

You can fight this.

I am by no means inciting violence in these words. There are other ways in which we all can fight. Suffragettes marched, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, hippies staged peace marches, rallies and sit-ins. There is always something you can do. In a world dominated by social media, voices are easily lost in the maelstrom, so don’t forget it is an ally AND a took. If you find yourself persecuted, find others who feel the same and make your voices heard. Protest peacefully, yet forcefully, and let social media spread your words. There is more strength in love than in hate. Remember that. Use it, and be better than the man who will guide your country. Be brave in the face of the fear he spreads. Spread love against his messages of hate. Now is the time to reject complacency in favour of the chance to make something – BE something – great. Your complacency is how he truly wins. Don’t let that happen.

America is YOUR country, not his, and you should fight like hell to keep it.

With love.

A Letter to America