On a trip to Cuba recently, I was forced to unplug. I had no cell phone coverage, which meant no email, no texting, no internet (insert no access to any social media or news outlets here). Is the thought of this giving you the shakes? While it makes sense – I mean, we were in Cuba – I didn’t think through the fact I wouldn’t have cell phone coverage. I assumed that since I was at a nice resort, I’d be set. As the co-founder and CEO of a company that prides itself on its relationships with our clients, referrals sources and inside team, staying connected is my job. After going through the full gamut of withdrawal symptoms (anger, frustration, irritability, anxiety, depression and weight gain…okay, I wasn’t depressed nor did I gain weight), I survived an entire day without my phone. Then, something happened. I woke up on my second day in Cuba and felt just fine.
While my trip was short, the benefits of being cell-phone free had a lasting impact. It got me thinking about being in the trap of over-activity and how I was buying into the misconception that staying fully connected at all times really helped me be focused and efficient.
Studies indicate that cell phone users check their phones every 6.5 minutes. Studies have also shown that checking your cell phone to be contagious. By way of comparison, the average smoker smokes 19.1 cigarettes a day (that’s a little more than one cigarette an hour, if you consider the average person sleeps about six hours and 27 minutes a night). Until the late 80’s, even early 90’s, smoking was socially acceptable. There was a time when doctors would even prescribe it. Today, with all that we know about how harmful smoking is, people think you’re crazy if you do it. Will people look back at this time in history and think we were all stupid for being addicted to our phones? Will they laugh about how we consumed more (playing games, listening to music, watching videos, browsing the internet) and created less? Will they shake their heads at how we prided ourselves on multi-tasking – scanning and answering every email and/or texting while we were in meetings, watching TV or even worse, spending “quality time” with our family?
While I’m not sure what the future holds for our addictive cell phone behavior, here are some tips that I’ve implemented into my daily routine that have helped me be a more engaged and productive person.
Start your morning routine without your phone
Instead of immediately grabbing my phone to start my day with catching up on text messages, emails and voicemails, I now finish my morning routine (journaling, meditation and eating breakfast) before I touch my phone. You’ll be surprised how much easier your morning routine is without the distraction of your cell phone and how much more focused and ready you’ll feel to take on the day.
Airplane mode isn’t just for airplanes
Once I walk through the door at the end of the day, I put my phone on airplane mode. This allows me to unplug and recharge from the day, along with truly connect with those around me. Without the distraction of my cell phone, I am reading more, getting more sleep and feeling great.
One thing to note, having a balanced life is important, but being unbalanced is sometimes necessary. There are going to be times when unplugging isn’t an option. I get that. But most of the time, we just make excuses to fuel our phone addiction (What if I miss an important email? What if I miss an important call?)
There’s no patch or gum that will help you kick the cell phone habit. You’re going to have to make up your mind to do it. Just remember: there’s also no patch or gum that will make up for the precious time wasted with your head down, staring at your cell phone.
Editor’s Note: This article was not written or produced on a cell phone